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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Rescuers dig deep to save three small fox cubs

Rescued fox cub receiving much needed fluidsVolunteers from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) spent four and a half hours digging down to rescue three orphan fox cubs after their mother was found dead on the road. WRAS receives regular funding from International Animal Rescue and Chief Executive Alan Knight also assisted with the rescue operation.

WRAS was called to the scene after a horse rider found a fox cub wandering around a narrow lane. She placed the cub back into a nearby den where there was another live cub. The rider then noticed a dead fox and grew concerned for the cubs' welfare. East Sussex WRAS rescuers arrived at the scene and checked the dead fox to find it was a lactating vixen which had been dead for about 24-48 hours and was probably a road casualty.

Rescuers could hear the cubs calling underground in a den at the side of the road. "It was a difficult and frustrating rescue," stated WRAS founder and rescuer Trevor Weeks, "the bank at the side of the road was steep and we kept slipping. The entrance tunnel also turned 90 degrees to where the cubs were, making it difficult to reach them. We used our camera to take photos so we could establish where they were and the layout of the tunnel as we couldn't see round the corner of the tunnel. We also found two dead cubs in the tunnel. We had no choice but to use a spade to widen the entrance hole so we could get closer to them and reach round the corner."

Fox cubs in the denAlan Knight who lives nearby brought a spade and vital life-saving fluids to help save the cubs. Trevor was able to widen the hole enough for rescuer Kathy to fit inside so she could reach round the bend to get to the cubs. She was able to reach the first at about 6.20pm, but the others moved further down the tunnel, making it impossible to get to them.

Volunteers Debbie and Sam Johnson arrived to take the first cub away for care and to get much need food into them, allowing Trevor and Kathy to concentrate on the rescue of the remaining orphaned cubs. After a short break they found the cubs had moved closer to the entrance again. "The dead ones were clearly starving and had not eaten anything for a while before dying" said Trevor.

"As I squeezed into the hole one of the cubs came towards me, I think she thought I was mum returning. Despite the lack of space and lack of room to move easily I was able to grab cub number 2. However I was so far in the hole Trevor had to help by pulling my legs to get me out!" said WRAS rescuer Kathy Martyn.

WRAS rescuer Kathy goes underground to find the cubsTo the rescuers' surprise they noticed that there was a third cub, and after further contortions Kathy managed to grab it by the scruff. By now it was 9.30pm and pitch black.

"This was an amazing rescue which we really thought was going to end badly. There is no way I was going to fit down the hole and I was glad to have rescuers Sam and Kathy who are much smaller than me. The orphans were all dehydrated, underweight and starving hungry and would certainly have been dead by the morning. They are now being looked after by Debbie Johnson and we hope they will all make a full recovery and eventually be released back into the wild,"said Trevor.

Alan Knight added: "It's a pleasure to support the work of East Sussex WRAS and times like this prove that our money is well spent. At this time of year WRAS is called on virtually 24/7 and without them so many more animals would die."