Duck rescuers out in big numbers

Issue 

Duck rescuers out in big numbers

By Mark Berriman

Animal rights and environmental groups launched some of the largest operations yet to retrieve dead and injured waterfowl as the 1991 duck season opened on March 16.

In NSW about 200 rescuers converged on Lake Cowal, near West Wyalong, and Barren Box Swamp, near Griffith, under the auspices of the newly formed Duck Coalition. In Victoria veteran campaigner Laurie Levy organised about 250 rescuers in seven wetlands. In Tasmania Jim Collier led 30 rescuers for the first operation in that state.

The number of shooters was down to about 35,000 in NSW and Victoria, allegedly due to the recession but most likely because of rising public opinion against the "sport".

Reports of aggressive and threatening behaviour towards protesters by shooters were rife, including several cases of assault and sabotage. At Barren Box Swamp, one rescuer's kayak was shot at three times at very short range while ricocheting pellets grazed his back. At Lake Cowal, a woman was shot in the leg. Shooters slashed the tyres of a provisions truck and emptied oil from the gear box of a bus, causing considerable damage.

In spite of a compulsory duck species recognition test introduced by the Victorian government, 226 illegally shot birds were retrieved from only seven of the 10,000 wetlands in that state, including a phenomenal 62 endangered freckled ducks. In NSW, of the 393 birds recovered, 61 were protected and six endangered. Between 40 and 50 injured birds treated by vets at Lake Cowal are now recovering in Sydney.

On March 18, the recovered birds were displayed in front of both the NSW and Victorian houses of parliament where protesters called for their respective environment ministers to ban the season. It is over three years since the NSW Animal Welfare Advisory Council recommended a total ban.

A survey of more than 1000 people carried out in Sydney in the weeks prior to the season found that 86.7% were opposed to the shooting of wildlife in public reserves. n