Season of Shame – Part 2 (GRAPHIC)

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. 


Duck shooting season - In Memoriam - Kim WormaldA lone feather flying above a sea of plucked feathers – 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.

 

Plucking Pit - Kim WormaldPlucked feathers – Victoria

 

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.

 

Duck Shooting WTP - Kim WormaldLittle 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.

 

Little Penguin WTP 1 - Kim WormaldLittle Penguin – Werribee Western Treatment Plant

 

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.

 

 Little Penguin WTP 2 - Kim Wormald
Little Penguin – Werribee Western Treatment Plant

 

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.

 

Lake Murdeduke 2 - Kim WormaldSunset over Lake Murdeduke

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 – daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au –  (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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52 comments to Season of Shame – Part 2 (GRAPHIC)

  • […] NB   Further information and images at Season of Shame, and Season of Shame Part 2 (Graphic) […]

  • Tuesday Browell

    Am getting ready to witness the carnage again around my farm. Thanks for what you do.
    I hate duck opening and the 7.27 start to hell.

    • lirralirra

      Oh Tuesday, I’ve just seen your comment. I hope you haven’t had shooters at your farm this year. Thank you for what you do! You are an inspiration.

  • Kongque Lu

    What a pity you cannot get cars banned from our roads as well. Because shooters drive to these areas, they do not walk. Plus thousands of water fowl are killed crossing roads each year, many hit by motor vehicles but not killed instantly, they crawl off into the scrub at the roadside and die in agony. While we are on the subject, how many wildfowl do you think perish from predation by cats and foxes? These feral predators are not restricted by “hunting seasons” and kill all year round, particularly in the weeks when vulnerable chicks form the mainstay of their diet. It is such a pity some people are so narrow minded and convinced that faux “polls” paint the real picture.

    • lirralirra

      I’m fascinated by your comment Kongque Lu. It’s great that you express concern about the birds that are killed on the roads and by feral animals – in light of that concern I’m surprised that you seem to support several hundred-thousand more waterbirds being killed each shooting season. The poll I mention was undertaken by Roy Morgan Research, which is ‘proudly independent’ and ‘Australia’s best known and longest established market research company, with an unparalleled reputation for reliable, accurate, meaningful, revealing market research’.

  • Neil Mansfield

    Well done Kimberley for bringing this slaughter to our attention. Hopefully such graphic images will change some politician’s minds about this mindless killing of our beautiful birds.

  • Misheru Misaki

    No offense but I don’t think the problem here is that the sport is legal, but rather that there seems to be a lack of proper education and enforcement regarding which areas, specific practices, and species are legal to hunt. This stinks of general government disorganization. If the numbers are really that low they should have cancelled the season or limited it to specific regions.

    Sounds like you guys need some sort of equivalent to our Canadian Ducks Unlimited society, a group specialized in enforcing and educating hunters both about the safety of their craft and about how to do it with the least impact on the environment.

    • lirralirra

      Hi Misheru, thanks for taking the time to comment. There are parts of your comment that I agree with but I cannot accept the premise that duck shooting is a ‘sport’. To mind my there is nothing sporting about hiding, under cover of darkness, in camouflage gear, behind a constructed hide with a flotilla of decoy ducks carefully arranged to lure native species and then blasting them with 100s of shotgun pellets.

  • Gillian Faulkner

    My heart is breaking looking at this

    • lirralirra

      Oh Gillian, I totally understand. It’s so frustrating that something as abhorrent as this, that breaks as many hearts as this, is considered legal. If we all keep badgering the politicians I believe we will be successful. Thank you for caring.

  • Mia

    Kim, this is so tragic, wasteful and senseless.

    Thank you for sharing these, perhaps it will help to get hunting there banned.

  • Glenn A

    Shooters obviously don’t have much care or understanding for the environment or any wildlife (as seen by the slogan “If it flies it dies”) but I’d hope even a shooter could tell the difference between a cormorant and a duck, let alone a penguin which can’t even fly, and so goes beyond even this cruel slogan! I’d guess it was probably the shooter’s dog that killed the penguin, which is another destructive influence on the environment I hadn’t really thought about with the whole shooting season – it’s not just the guns that do the damage. Surely to make these sorts of mistakes in identification shooters must be completely out of control, drunk or both.

    Well done on continuing to bring this to the public eye (along with CADS, Animals Australia and the RSPCA). It seems our politicians don’t care even about shootings that breach their own very lax rules for what can be shot. Victorian wetlands are so dry – hopefully a lot of the birds have migrated into the relative safety of NSW where they’ve now had a lot of rain. Keep up the good work!

    • lirralirra

      I hope you’re right about the birds migrating to NSW. It’s horribly dry across Victoria and I saw very few ‘game’ species on the lakes, it’s heart-breaking to think that an estimated 500,000 ‘game’ birds will be shot this season. The bizarre thing is that shooters think they are in tune with nature and do more for the environment that the rest of us, eg putting up nesting boxes for the waterbirds so they can shoot the offspring. It is so foreign to our way of thinking. Your comment about ‘mistakes’ in identification is interesting, last weekend we found a Whistling Kite and a pelican with pellet wounds and there was no sign of a compliance officer …

      Thank you for your comment Glenn, it is heartening to know how many people care.

    • Chris Morris

      Glenn, what a load of claptrap you espouse without a scintilla of evidence.

      How do you know it was a shooter’s dog? You have laid the blame for every unclaimed dead duck, protected species both on hunters and their companion/hunting dogs.

      Why a dog and not a cat? You don’t like dogs?

      If it flies it dies? Really. Not my slogan.

      “Out of control, drunk or both”. Easy to type these words when you’re a keyboard warrior.

      Without even knowing you I bet I and many others in the hunting community have done more for conservation of species than you could ever dream about.

      It’s clear to me you are commenting on a subject you know little about.

      It’s a disturbing trend inherent in many of your ilk.

      • Glenn A

        Interesting comment – Welfare groups routinely find birds left to die, dead and maimed legal and illegal species on our wetlands, but you ask for more evidence? You’re probably right that without video footage of a particular shooter targeting a specific illegal species, the evidence would not be enough to convict an individual in a court. This makes it easy for authorities to wipe their hands of the issue. Evidence against an individual will be almost impossible to obtain, since shooting is done at a distance, on large wetlands with few other people around.

        But as evidence against having a shooting season at all – these photos are plenty to see what happens when you legalise the indiscriminate use of firearms in nature. This evidence is enough to show that targeting so called “game” species doesn’t work in an ecosystem with many different species coexisting, and that legalizing shooting of any species for “fun” results in non-target species being hit, and both target and non-target species being wounded and dying a slow agonising death. There are clearly enough shooters who don’t care about identifying legal birds to make the whole practice suspect (again, there isn’t enough evidence for a specific individual doing this, but the evidence is there that it happens). This may have been acceptable a century ago, but society has moved on and no longer regards raining wanton death and destruction on other beings for a quick thrill as a valid thing for humans to do.
        As for “conservation” – how is killing large numbers of native birds in any way conservation, particularly in a drought year when numbers are down? It denies the value of any individual animal’s life in its own right, and assumes it only exists in order to provide you with enjoyment when you kill it. It ignores the capacity of birds to feel pain and suffering – in fact the use of shotguns seems to attempt to maximise the level of suffering. Building nest boxes for birds (and this seems to be touted as the main contribution to conservation among shooters) just so you have more to kill and maim next season is a pretty warped view of conservation.

        The owner of this blog is doing far more for conserving our wildlife by photographing nature non-intrusively and raising awareness of the remarkable birds we have in Australia. Any shooter who was genuinely concerned with conservation would be swapping their guns for cameras, the only way wildlife should be shot.

        • lirralirra

          Glenn, you make so many clear and valid points, thank you. I totally agree that it would be genuine conservation if duck shooters used cameras instead of guns.

  • Tanya

    The above response from the hunter is eerily similar to those we hear constantly from people in favour of horse racing, greyhound racing and any other activity that exploits animals in the name of “sport” or “entertainment.” Deny all evidence, or provide a justification for it, regardless of how absurd it sounds, and dismiss all emotional appeals, because, well….emotions just get in the way.

    The emotions I feel on viewing these, and the hundreds of other photos, videos and witness accounts, arise from empathy, that is, an ability to understand and feel the suffering experienced by other beings. Why consider such an ability to be a negative trait? Surely we would want to nurture it as a great attribute of humankind. If therefore, living according to values of compassion and kindness towards others means I am “unhinged,” then I wear that badge proudly.

    • lirralirra

      You are so right Tanya. The most recent comment I heard was someone asking if there was video footage of a hunter shooting a bird (with a pellet wound and a broken neck) that had been abandoned at a hide, along with shell casings. If there had been they’d have said how could they tell it was a hunter as it could have been anyone hiding under the camouflage. We have to ignore the most ridiculous comments I think and focus on all the good and caring people out there who are willing to put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) in the hopes that our premier will soon have the strength to do what other premiers have already done.

      Thank you for your comment Tanya, and for living according to such laudable values. You are an inspiration.

  • Bill

    It is disgusting that duck shooting is still allowed in this state, and I cannot understand why the authorities have not banned it. The images make me feel sick knowing that humans can inflict this on defenceless and beautiful creatures.

    • lirralirra

      Thank you for commenting Bill. It is interesting that what is ‘fun’ to a few people makes the rest of us sick; if only it made the authorities sick too.

  • Margot

    I continue to be outraged that this murderous practice is still permitted. Your definitive proof, Kim, along with CADS well documented proof over many decades does not seem to awaken politicians to the reality of the situation, but we must keep trying. Recently I was perusing my mother’s 1988 diary. The following entry for Sunday 20th March, caught my attention.
    “The duck-shooting season opened with lots of opposition from the Animal Liberationists, some of them even got shot in the process but not seriously, how I hate that Joan Kirner who is not helping one bit, and still refuses to ban it altogether.”
    And we still battle 27 years later. Disgraceful!

    • lirralirra

      It is outrageous, I agree. The quote from your mother’s diary is poignant, so many people have been battling to have the duck season banned but it continues despite the bird numbers being so low, it is barbaric and unsustainable. Thank you for sharing and caring.

  • Rachel

    Nobody can deny the proof that you present in this post! They’re stupid if they think that this sort of behaviour is acceptable! You’re so brave and inspiring to take these images, let alone writing this post about them! What a great role model you are to everyone!

    • lirralirra

      Thank you for you lovely comment Rachel. I hope the images and information inspires people to write to the politicians. I didn’t feel particularly brave btw.

  • Eleanor

    Very moving and devastating images. Such a terrible shame.

  • Joyce

    I agree with everything that has been said. I hope that the right people see your images and do something about it. I can imagine your feelings when you took these photos.

    • lirralirra

      Thank you Joyce, I appreciate your comment and you are right, they were difficult photographs to take. I hope they help in the fight against recreational duck shooting, Kim

  • Leanne

    Good to have some undeniable proof of them shooting birds on the no kill list and breaking the law in other ways. Should be classed as a menace.

    • lirralirra

      There’s certainly been a lot of confusion about whether or not hunting is legal at the WTP, I’m delighted that it isn’t and hope it will soon be illegal across the state! 🙂

  • Evie

    I’m in Queensland, so there’s none of that up here, not under the pretence that it’s legal anyways.
    Who do we write to?

  • Chris Morris

    Another CADS supporter with no evidence.

    Every hunter knows that it is illegal to hunt on the worried Sewerage Farm. Every right minded hunter would like to see those who break the law punished, except you?

    You must have seen the hunter because you conversed with him. You had a camera. Why didn’t you photograph him and report him to the authorities?

    No, you come on social media with unsubstantiated claims and photos mouthing CADS propaganda.

    Does nothing for your credibility.

    Just emotional crap designed to stir up your unhinged followers!!!!

    • lirralirra

      Hi Chris, I will respond to each of your comments:

      “Another CADS supporter with no evidence” – I photographed the recently killed birds at the WTP foreshore along with recently fired shell casings and several decoy ducks. The Little Penguin was taken to the Melbourne Zoo vet to ascertain the cause of death. I consider that is evidence. I do support CADS, especially its commitment to rescue birds injured by shooters and left to die slowly and painfully.

      “Every hunter knows that it is illegal to hunt on the worried [auto-correct for Werribee?] Sewage Farm.” – I wish that every hunter knew but Field and Game Australia’s Facebook page (2:02pm 14 April) shows a map of the area and begins, “There has been some confusion as to the status of hunting in the vicinity of the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee …” Numerous confused, displeased hunters have commented on the post, including, “So where can u hunt there? Or not at all?”, “can we or can we not hunt the poo farm”, “I was told as long as you are between the high tide line and the low tide line its crown land and you can hunt ducks during season”, “I’ve been hunting Kirk’s point foreshore for 26 years and never had a problem there with ranger’s only the bird watchers who think they own the place”.

      “You must have seen the hunter because you conversed with him. You had a camera. Why didn’t you photograph him and report him to the authorities.” – As I mentioned, I saw the hunter on a previous occasion. I did not converse with him. I called WTP security and was told it he was there legally if he stayed below the high tide mark and fired towards the sea. This was not what I’d previously been told by WTP and not what subsequently seems to be true.

      “No, you come on social media with unsubstantiated claims and photos mouthing CADS propaganda. Does nothing for your credibility. Just emotional crap designed to stir up your unhinged followers!!!!” – I have been careful to make no unsubstantiated claims and don’t believe I have any unhinged followers, just caring people who appreciate the intrinsic value of nature.

    • Neil Mansfield

      Evidence against duck hunters who do the wrong thing is to be found every duck season if the people with authority to prosecute were only available to look for it and act. Having lived in Longford and Kerang near substantial wetlands, duck shooters would regularly begin illegally shooting well before first light. For a number of years, my brother was Park Ranger at Tower Hill near Warrnambool. Each duck season he would witness first hand the destructive habits of duck hunters who pushed through areas of vegetation that were being rehabilitated, even though they were clearly delineated, and numerous protected species were shot each year. How can a duck hunter mistake a Black Swan for a duck? Illegally shot bird species were regularly thrown under bushes by hunters. After the closure of the duck season one year, he came across a duck hunter illegally shooting across the water at ducks with a .303 rifle, the bullet of which can travel for miles. He called the police and the rifle was confiscated. So much for there being no evidence for the illegal activities of duck hunters. After the closure of duck season each year, my brother said that the waters which usually abounded with different bird species were deserted by every bird as a result of the trauma of the loud firing of guns, and it would take some months before the birds returned in numbers again. So much for the environmental sensitivities of duck hunters.

      • lirralirra

        Hi Neil, your comment emphasises so many horrors of the duck shooting season. You’re absolutely right about the prosecutions. With about 20,000 sites where ducks can legally be shot across Victoria it is preposterous to imagine that they are all properly policed. And even if they were, there can still be massacres as at The Marshes in Kerang on the opening day in 2017 when shooters began shooting in the dark, 20-30 minutes early, and where over 1200 native birds were killed and abandoned, including c120 endangered Freckled Ducks. There were officers at the site, and journalists and politicians but with shooters camouflaged and firing from around the lake it was impossible for justice to be done. At least this year the Game Management Authority acknowledged the massacre.

        Hopefully Victoria’s Season of Shame will soon be permanently banned. Thank you for caring, Kim

  • Jenny Skewes

    Kim
    This is so shocking. We suspect this happens, but your photographs show it so graphically. You are doing an important service by publicising the reality. Horrible!
    Yes, we must all speak out against this barbarity.

    • lirralirra

      I agonised over whether or not to post the images Jenny but I don’t want the slaughter to continue and decided that I had to follow my conscience. It is horribly barbaric. Thank you for your comments and for caring.

  • Phil Weyers

    Truly pathetic stuff, obviously something more needs to be done.

  • Tamsin

    Good for you bring this issue into the public eye. It’s a disgrace that duck hunting is still legal in this country, hunting for sport full stop should not be legal. Hopefully your posts will help to put an end to it.

  • Alyssa

    You are so brave for facing every birder’s worst nightmare. Your photos are a beautiful tribute to these poor birds that have suffered so much for the fun of so few. It sickens me that in today’s world money still has more say than animal welfare and the intrinsic value of natural places.

    • lirralirra

      Thank you for seeing the images as a tribute to the birds. They really have suffered so much for the fun of so few, you worded that perfectly. I am also sickened by it.

  • jacob

    Very sad…. Living in Sydney, we couldn’t stand to see one of the Little Penguins treated like that. In Sydney Harbour there is only a small population, which is listed as endangered under the New South Wales Threatened Species Act. They have to deal with rubbish, ferry’s, power boats, fishermen, and habitat destruction, but luckily….. No shooters.

    I am putting together a calendar featuring little penguins, would love to use some of your work. If you are interested, please email me at Ecologyaustralis@gmail.com

    • lirralirra

      I hope the people of Melbourne can’t stand it either Jacob. That’s a lot for your little guys to deal with, I’m glad they don’t have to put up with shooters on top of everything else! I’ll email you about the calendar, thank you.

  • Tears.
    Rage.
    Disgust.
    And hopes that the insanity will end.
    Thank you for a confronting and heart-hurting post. Sadly it will take many more of these images to bring home just what an obscenity duck hunting is.

    • lirralirra

      I hope it doesn’t need too many more images EC, they hurt my heart too. The optimist in me believes that if people who care write to the politicians we’ll be able to save more birds from suffering.

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