I have been following the duck-shooting debate over the last few
days. I deplore the so called Duck Hunting Season. The word "hunting"
does not describe what happens. I would like to put a number of comments to the
subscribers of birding-aus.
Half of my almost three score years have been spent in very
small communities far from the capital cities and the coast. A number of years
were spent in Queensland communities noted for their isolation. Bedourie springs
to mind as one example.
Living in those areas on a permanent basis is vastly different
to visiting them on holidays and birding expeditions. The local grazing and
farming communities are generally reserved with visitors but open up after you
have been living with them for a while. I have found these people to be,
generally, well informed on all forms of wildlife and, contrary to popular
belief, conservationists. The difference between the words
"conservationist" and "preservationist" is the key to this
statement. Some of my "lifers" were found after telephone or radio
calls from some of these property owners. A number of breeding records for the
first Atlas were found the same way. I have been called from home in the middle
of the night to identify unusual snakes that have crawled into the house. These
were always alive when I arrived and were released away from harm. In one area,
a pure white wallaby was not reported to the media and access to the property
for shooters denied to protect the creature. An albino(?) Kookaburra was treated
the same way.
It is noticeable that these same property owners would shoot
certain species if they felt justified. In far-western Queensland during the
1960’s, the red kangaroos were in plague proportions. This had been caused
by the rapid spread of bore drains during the fifties. These provided lots of
permanent water and food for these animals. I read during that time, that the
population of red kangaroos had increased by 400% over the population at the
time of white settlement. Was the culling of this species to protect the
grazier’s income contrary to conservation principles?
In the Upper Burnett Valley (Queensland) in the 1950’s,
the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo population exploded with the introduction of a new
food source (Milo). The numbers were unbelievable and flocks numbering hundreds
stripped paddocks within days. For farmers recovering from a severe drought,
this was the last straw. Were they wrong to shoot birds that were multiplying
because of new food sources to protect their own families?
In the 1980’s, I was called by a lucerne farmer on the
banks of the Burnett River near the Goodnight Scrub (Queensland again) to
inspect his lucerne crop and the destruction being caused by Wood (Maned) Ducks.
One paddock of 25 acres was completely destroyed in one night by thousands of
these ducks. Although this farmer had shown me nests of a number of species in
the past and continually monitored the river for rarer species, he proceeded to
shoot large numbers of the offending birds to try to protect his only source of
My point is this: Although the slaughter that is wrapped up in
pretty clothing as a Duck Hunting Season is to be fought at all costs, do not
place all those who shoot in the same category.