Ethics of birdwatching (Part 2)

Subject: Ethics of birdwatching (Part 2)
From: Stephen Ambrose <>
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 16:46:01 +1000

I think people should be aware that nearly all research institutions in 
Australia are 
required to have their animal research activities approved by an Animal Ethics 
Experimentation Committee. 

Each institution is responsible for setting up their own committee, and 
consists of scientists and informed members of the public. These committees 
meet on a 
regular basis to assess the methods proposed by scientists to conduct research 
animals. The researcher has to convince the committee that the techniques 
he/she will 
use causes the minimum possible stress to experimental animals. Even a simple 
bird-watching project has to be approved by the committee. In studies where 
may cause stress, harm or even death to animals, the researcher must justify 
actions to the committee, otherwise the project would not be approved. Each 
Experimentation Ethics Committee assesses the projects using guidelines 
produced by 
Federal Parliament.

Of course, recreational bird-watching activities are generally not subject to 
or approval by such committees. Alan McBride quite rightly pointed out to me 
that the ABA in the U.S already has a code of ethics for bird-watching. I will 
this code up in the next few days.

While a position paper produced by the RAOU on the ethics of bird-watching may 
not stop 
some individuals from using a spotlight that is potentially harmful to 
nocturnal birds, 
it may help assist refine professional guidelines for future research. Both 
Federal and 
State Governments continually seek the advice of the RAOU on matters relating 
to bird 
research and conservation. Position papers are an important part of this advice.

Therefore, I do urge all of you to send your views about the ethics of 
particularly in relation to play-back tapes and spotlights to attract and 
observe birds, 
to the RAOU Conservation Committee. This will allow the broadest spectrum of 
views to be 
taken into account in preparing a position paper. We are particularly 
interested in your 
views on the use of these techniques in ecotourism and their potential effects 
threatened bird species, shy or easily disturbed birds, and rare vagrants.

Dr Stephen Ambrose
RAOU Research and Conservation Manager.

Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.
Australian Bird Research Centre,
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East,
VIC   3123.

Tel:    (03) 9882 2622.
Fax:    (03) 9882 2677.
Email:  S.Ambrose <>

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