SA’s native waterbirds star in photographic exhibition ahead of next hunting season

March 12, 2019

The free one-day only exhibition at the South Australian Museum takes place this Friday, a day before the official start of South Australia’s 2019 duck shooting season. Titled “Treasures not Targets”, the exhibition will showcase the diversity and behaviour of native waterbirds targeted by recreational shooters for four months every year.

Pacific Black Duck

Photo credit: Con Boekel

RSPCA SA is part of a five-member coalition behind the exhibition. The other members of the coalition, which is calling for the cessation of duck and quail hunting in South Australia, are Birds SA, Fauna Rescue SA, Animal Justice Party SA and Animal Liberation SA.

“People may have seen the distressing images of bloodied and dead native waterbirds laid out on the ground, often with so-called ‘protected’ species among them,” RSPCA South Australia Animal Welfare Advocate Dr Rebekah Eyers said.

“What we want people to see instead are beautifully captured images of these birds in all their living glory.

“It’s the next best thing to visiting our State’s pristine wetlands and witnessing firsthand the exquisite birdlife they sustain.”

Australian Wood Duck

Photo credit: Jeff Groves 

Hunting disturbs many non-target bird species, some of which are accidentally shot by hunters. Hunting is also permitted in major areas for waterbird breeding, such as the Riverland Ramsar site, so named because of its status as a wetland of international importance.

“Wildlife is being shot for what a tiny minority of people regard as fun, and shot in a way that can never be humane,” Dr Eyers said.

“Pellets from a shotgun spread out in a random pattern, making it impossible to guarantee a kill, even if the aim is perfect.

“RSPCA studies of Australian and international research indicate that between 26% and 45% of birds shot will be wounded or crippled and not retrieved, with many of these birds suffering a slow and painful death.

“If you had wounded animals escaping from abattoirs, there would be outrage, but this maiming happens far from the public eye.

“Nonetheless, surveys have shown consistently that the vast majority of South Australians are opposed to duck shooting.”

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.

Bag limits for the 2019 season (announced by SA Environment Minister David Speirs last December) have been reduced and the season slightly shortened as “a precautionary approach due to the current environmental conditions, game bird numbers and limited breeding”.

Dr Eyers commended the Minister’s decision to reduce the daily bag limit for ducks from 12 to 8 and for quail from 20 to 15, and to start the season a month later than last year. However, she maintains duck hunting is indefensible from both an animal welfare and environmental perspective, with waterbird numbers continuing to decline over eastern and southern Australia.

“It was heartening to hear Premier Marshall call for an inquiry into duck shooting in 2011, soon after he was elected to parliament, and to win majority support for it in the party room at the time,” Dr Eyers said.

“We’re hopeful that we might finally see some action by government towards ending this barbaric, publicly unpopular and unnecessary activity.”

  • SA’s duck hunting season begins on 16 March and finishes on 30 June.
  • The quail hunting season runs from 16 February to 31 August.
  • The State Government issued 1,841 duck and 190 quail hunting permits last year.
  • WA, NSW and Qld have banned recreational duck hunting.

You can find more information on waterbird hunting here.

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