Only 34 swans remain in Brussels after a rise in suspected poaching in the Belgian capital.
Multiple reports have shown the number of mute swans in the city as mysteriously declining, despite there being no evidence of birds voluntarily moving out of the area or dying of disease.
According to Belgian news outlet Sudinfo, city officials now believe the animals are being actively hunted in the city by poor people.
“We’ve heard from the residents [around] certain ponds that the disappearances are due to a disadvantaged population who would poach the swans to eat them,” said Mario Ninanne, a representative from the Royal Belgian League for Bird Protection.
It is believed the swans and their their eggs are being targeted by poachers, with police having found traps around ponds in the city seemingly designed to snare the birds.
Reports have also emerged of “suspicious people” feeding swans, possibly in an attempt to make them less fearful of humans. In many cases, the swans then disappear overnight, never to be seen again.
Police are said to have recently increased their presence around bodies of water in the city between 6am and 3pm in an attempt to stop the poaching, although locals say that has had little effect.