Protected birds aren’t target practice

There have been two Facebook posts in the last fortnight regarding sightings of red-billed gulls on the Kapiti Coast with blowdarts lodged in them. One bird was found dead, while the other had the dart impaled in its leg.

Red-billed gulls/tarāpunga are a protected species under the Wildlife Act, and the maximum penalty for the disturbance of protected species is a fine of $100,000 and/or imprisonment for two years.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) was alerted to the issue by the local SPCA and concerned locals, says DOC Supervisor Melody McLaughlin.

“People may not be aware the red-billed gulls are a Nationally Vulnerable species,” says Melody.

“Although they are reasonably common, their numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate.

“This behaviour demonstrates an astonishing lack of respect for the life and welfare of our protected species, and we are taking the matter extremely seriously.

“Our threatened wildlife shouldn’t be used for target practice.”

Blowdarts and blowguns are originally weapons used by ancient cultures in the Americas and Asia, primarily to hunt small creatures for food.

Modern versions of the weapon and the darts are readily available through New Zealand hunting, firearms and outdoor equipment retailers, and promotion of the products states the darts can pierce through soft drink cans.

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