This weekend’s pre-Christmas announcement of a 2019 duck and quail open hunting season in South Australia ignores a raft of serious concerns, according to RSPCA South Australia’s Animal Welfare Advocate Dr Rebekah Eyers.
RSPCA South Australia is part of a five-member coalition arguing for an end to duck and quail hunting in South Australia on the grounds of animal cruelty.
The coalition has sent a letter to SA Environment Minister David Speirs, highlighting multiple reasons why the recreational shooting of native birds should cease.
“There is irrefutable evidence of the inevitable wounding of ducks due to the use of shotguns. Pellets from a shotgun spread out in a random pattern, making it impossible to guarantee a kill, even if the aim is perfect,” Dr Eyers said.
“RSPCA studies of Australian and international research indicate that between 26% and 45% of birds shot will be wounded or crippled and not retrieved, many of these birds suffering a slow and painful death.
“The hunting of Australian native birds, which is a purely discretionary activity rather than required for sustenance, has no place in the 21st century – and most South Australians agree.” 
The other members of the coalition calling for the cessation of duck and quail hunting are Birds SA, Fauna Rescue SA, Animal Justice Party SA and Animal Liberation SA.
Formal legal advice received by RSPCA SA indicates that the hunting of ducks and quail is highly likely to contravene South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act. However, the nature of the activity and the remote locations would make it difficult to prove who was responsible for a specific act of animal cruelty, and therefore difficult to prosecute an individual shooter.
The Minister’s decision comes in the context of the continuing decline in waterbird numbers over eastern and southern Australia  and the severe impact on wetlands of the drought conditions in NSW and Queensland. This has led to the concentration of many waterbird species in the Coorong and Lower Lakes of South Australia. These regions, which are in relatively better condition, are among those subject to hunting.
Vice-President of Birds SA Jeff Groves said a wide range of human influences, including habitat loss, are already putting birds throughout Australia under immense pressure.
“The reality is that non-target species – including some classified as endangered – are inevitably shot,” Mr Groves said.
“The annual SA hunting season disturbs the activities of many non-target species including the rare Australian Painted-Snipe, Australasian Bittern and Regent Parrot.
Mr Groves said it was particularly concerning hunting was once again being allowed in some of the State’s most pristine native bird habitats, such as Tolderol.
“It’s incredible that in 2019 we have part of Tolderol, a magnificent location for Australian and international migratory wading birds on Lake Alexandrina, once again classified as a game reserve and open to hunting.”
The coalition now calls upon Minister Speirs:
- To please explain his decision to permit an open season for the hunting of ducks and quail in SA in 2019 and
- To institute an inquiry into whether these hunting activities contravene the law in South Australia and fail to meet the expectations of its citizens.
While disappointed that a 2019 season has been announced, especially given the lack of robust data on quail, Dr Eyers commended the decision to reduce the daily bag limits for ducks from 12 this year to 8 next year.
She also acknowledged the decision to start next year’s duck shooting season a month later than the 2018 season, as this should reduce the number of ducklings left to fend for themselves when their mother has been shot.
“These are positive changes, provided they are effectively monitored and enforced, with penalties for any shooters who exceed the allowable limits,” Dr Eyers said.
“However, given that research demonstrates inevitable wounding and strong community opposition to duck and quail shooting, we want to see it end.”
South Australia’s 2019 duck hunting season is due to begin on Saturday 16 March 2019, and end on Sunday 30 June 2019. The 2019 quail hunting season is due to begin on Saturday 16 February 2019 and end on Saturday 31 August 2019.
To learn more and join RSPCA’s call to end duck shooting, head to our campaign page on our website: www.rspcasa.org.au/duck-hunting.
 Research conducted in SA in 2011 by McGregor Tan Research revealed that 83% of South Australians surveyed were opposed to duck and quail hunting.
 The 2018 Eastern Australian Aerial Waterbird Survey, conducted annually since 1983 by the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW