Legally "protecting" feathers

Subject: Legally "protecting" feathers
From: (Syd Curtis)
Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 06:57:52 +1000
On May 27, Ken Rogers quoted "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the
guidance of wise men" with respect to Wildlife Regulations protecting
feathers, etc.  He enquired as to "who are the fools and who are the wise

Simple Ken.  Remember the other saying: "The law is an ass."

Queensland lost a prosecution action under the Fauna Conservation Act
because the Court accepted the defence that an egg-shell is not an egg.
The action concerned a person who had collected native birds' eggs, but not
surprisingly did not retain the eggs complete with contents.

So the Act was amended to the effect that "fauna" included eggs "or any
part thereof".

Consider a situation where a wildlife officer finds a person with a firearm
and a backpack, getting into a vehicle on a public road.  His authority
allows him to require the person to display the contents of the bag.  He
finds the tail feathers of say a male Superb Lyrebird (or in another State,
perhaps a Riflebird).  There is a forest nearby in which the species
occurs.  It is virtually certain that the person has shot the bird and
collected the feathers.

If feathers are protected and the person does not have any authority to be
in possession of them, prosecution could not fail.  Any lawyer would advise
the offender to plead guilty by letter, saving himself a court appearance,
and the wildlife Department would be saved the cost of prosecuting a
defended action.

Without such a provision, the wildlife officer could perhaps search for the
dead bird and if against all odds he found it with its tail missing the
Department could use DNA fingerprinting to prove the tail came from that
bird, and assuming it was fresh, almost certainly a conviction would be
obtained ... and the penalty imposed would probably not cover the
Department's costs!

But without finding the bird, the accused's defence lawyer could argue that
his client had merely been shooting rabbits when he found the tail and he
was going to take it to the wildlife authority.  The lawyer might raise
sufficient doubts in the mind of the magistrate to get his client off.

No wildlife officer can afford the time to try to prosecute a person for
being in possession of a protected feather unless they have good reason to
consider that the feather is merely an indication of an offence involving
the bird. I cheerfully confess to having deliberately collected a few
pretty feathers from under a tree where a large flock of Rainbow Lorikeets
roost and to give to my granddaughter.

But I strongly recommend that any person wishing to keep a feather of a
rare or spectacular species should get the necessary authority first.

Syd (happily retired NPWS officer) Curtis, Hawthorne, Qld.

H Syd Curtis

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