After much consideration GRAPHIC IMAGES are included in this post. I’d wanted to share beautiful images but my conscience won’t allow me to ignore what I have seen this week. Do not scroll below the first image if you want to avoid the graphic shots, they are included with the hope they might help expedite the banning of recreational duck shooting in Victoria.
I visited some Victorian wetlands and lakes this week and instead of seeing the beauty I’d hoped to see, I saw lakes with desperately little water and I stumbled across areas where shooters had plucked the native waterbirds they had killed; they were like miniature seas of downy feathers and severed wings.
I took the image above to commemorate native waterbirds killed during the duck hunting season. I thought the way the lone feather flew over the sea of downy feathers was evocative; I didn’t know what else the week would bring.
I took some quick photographs of the plucked feathers, sickened by the sight and trying to imagine who had created it and whether they wore gear stating ‘If it flies it dies’.
The following day I visited the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee, it’s one of my favourite places and one of the most significant birding sites in the country. A couple of weeks ago I was shocked to see a hunter hidden behind saltbush at the foreshore, and more shocked to be told that it was legal (which it isn’t) as long as he stayed below the high tide mark and fired towards the sea. Since then I have spoken with Melbourne Water, the Game Management Authority and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and was eventually told that shooting at the Werribee River Park, the WTP foreshore and Spit Wildlife Reserve is illegal. I was passed from department to department as no one seemed certain; I understand that shooters are also confused about the legality of shooting in the area.
Little Penguin, Musk Duck, Pied Cormorant, teal – Werribee Western Treatment Plant
There is no confusion, however, about the freshly killed birds that were found on the WTP foreshore that morning along with numerous recently fired shell casings and several decoy ducks. It is illegal to kill and abandon game birds, like the teal. It is illegal to kill non-game birds like Musk Duck and Pied Cormorant, neither of which look remotely like a game species. Musk Duck are rated as ‘vulnerable’ in Victoria, they are a protected species that rarely fly during the day due to their bulky size and clumsy take off and landing ability. Pied Cormorants are rated as ‘near threatened’ in Victoria, they are a large, distinctive cormorant that could never be mistaken for a duck.
Seeing the freshly killed Little Penguin was particularly upsetting. It was difficult to tell whether or not it had been shot so it was taken to a vet at Melbourne Zoo who said its injuries were consistent with a dog attack. I arrived in Werribee too late that morning to know if any hunters or their dogs were in the area.
Little Penguins are an iconic Australian species famous for the nightly Penguin Parade at Phillip Island where they gather in groups and waddle comically back to their burrows after a long day of feeding at sea. They are also known as Fairy Penguins and Blue Penguins, due to their small size and the blue-black colouring of their dark feathers. They mate for life and stand just over 30 cm tall.
Taking the image above made me feel sick. It was taken in the small car park adjacent to the foreshore where the birds were found. Hopefully the messages on the sign will be honoured and no more local waterbirds will be attacked by dogs or shot by hunters.
There is a large concrete boat ramp at Lake Murdeduke that stands incongruously redundant several hundred metres away from the current waterline. I expected to see riparian vegetation and an abundance of birds, instead I saw a lunar landscape and not a single bird. Several lakes and wetlands in the area are totally dry and with waterbird numbers 60-80% lower than they used to be, according to the annual aerial surveys of Professor Richard Kingsford, I am bewildered that the Victorian government authorised this year’s duck shooting season. The cruelty of the ‘sport’ is undeniable with one in four birds being injured rather than killed outright, which relates to about 100,000 suffering birds.
How can shooters, who represent only 0.4% of the Victorian population, have more power than the 87% of Victorians who want duck shooting banned (November 2007 Morgan Poll)?
If we stand together surely we can ban duck shooting in Victoria as it was banned in Western Australia in 1990, New South Wales in 1995 and Queensland in 2005. If we all take a moment to write or re-write to Premier Dan Andrews – email@example.com – (and perhaps ministers Jaala Pulford, Lisa Neville and our local members) we can make our shared voices louder than the blasts of shotguns that spray pellets into defenceless waterbirds.
I’m sorry I had to post such disturbing images. Lirralirra will be back to more pleasant images next week, perhaps the exquisite White-winged Black Terns I saw for the first time at the treatment plant that afternoon.
Happy birding, Kim
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