|To:||Peter Lansley <>, Birding-Aus Mail <>|
|Subject:||ethics of chasing moulting penguins|
|Date:||Thu, 27 Jan 2000 17:19:25 +1000|
Hi Peter and everyone
Nice one, Peter. I was beginning to think that no-one thought my posting was worth the bother of a response.
Firstly, yes I am part of the dread public service. I'm an extension officer and God forbid that I should keep anyone in the dark! Mate, I know you're living in only-just-post-Kennett Victoria, but your cynicism about the public service generally is a bit unkind. By the way, I too can read email addresses and note that I have a foot in your camp, having been a member of RAOU/BA for 15 years. I would also add that my opinions are my own, and expect this is the same for you.
Secondly, I too have never met any birder that I thought would deliberately put a bird at risk, though I have heard some pretty dark stories. My paraphrasing was more about perceptions than reality. It's all too easy to be painted as the bad guy, and I think that Tony Palliser's message and even more so, Tony Russell's, could provide ammunition for people with an axe to grind. Remember, anyone can subscribe to birding-aus. Duck-hunting was once a perfectly acceptable practice - now it's banned in at least one State. Are we birders beyond reproach? Could someone argue a case that we too are unacceptably exploiting birds? Do we do anything that might give that impression?
Your third point, about justification for moving the bird, is a good
one. Tony P. said that he suspected that Parks staff had been told to move
moulting penguins to protect them from dogs and cats. We might well add
people to that list of dangers: recall if you will the infamous shearwater-bashing
episode, involving some members of a school group camped on a Barrier Reef
island not so long ago.
Let me raise a hypothetical, a la Geoffrey Robertson: a stray dog eats the penguin this evening, or perhaps some yobbo bashes its head in for fun. Apart from the immediate culprit, is anyone to blame for the birds fate? Was it preventable?
To go back to my original message, your local Parks people must be acting in good faith, responding to concerns about the penguins' safety - as Tony P. said, 'fair enough'. At the same time, a chance to see a wild Rockhopper doesn't come along all that often, I expect. It seems a bit sad to this distant observer that there seems to be a feeling that a bit of skullduggery is required to make sure that one group doesn't lose out to another. I suspect that the answers to the questions I just raised lie with experienced people in both the local parks staff and the wider birding community. Surely birders and rangers (or whatever you call them down there) could get together and work out a way to combine this expertise to objectively assess the risk to the birds and act accordingly, rather than be placed into opposing camps. It might be possible to come up with some novel solutions that satisfy everyone. Has anyone tried this? If not, why not?
As Peter said, "The welfare of the bird is paramount." For more detail
on just what that means for the birder, I refer one and all to the Guidelines
On Recreational Bird Watching, recently posted by Hugo Phillipps on this
line, and no doubt available on request from Birds Australia. In particular,
I refer to Guideline 3.1, which reads in part: "To be fully informed about
the birds being watched requires an awareness of the ecology of the species
including feeding, roosting and breeding activities and the conservation
issues which affect the survival of the species. By making full use of
the knowledge available, responsible birders should make every effort to
minimise the impact of their activities on the species being observed."
Anyway, on a lighter note, it seems that mobs of people are getting a look at the bird in question. I'd like to see a penguin, any penguin, one day!
Peter Lansley wrote:
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