Shotguns in tranquil wetlands get greenlight again

RSPCA SA condemns another season of wildlife wounding

South Australia’s tranquil wetlands will come under gunfire again in 2022 with today’s announcement of another duck hunting season in The South Australian Government Gazette.

The three-month season will begin on 19 March 2022 and run until Sunday 26 June 2022. Hunters will be allowed to kill a maximum of 8 native birds each, per day (twice as many as in 2021). As with the last two seasons (2020 and 2021), no quail are permitted to be shot this season.

The announcement comes against a backdrop of:

  • Population surveys showing waterbird numbers still well below average, despite more rain during the La Nina events of 2021.[1]
  • Evidence of high wounding rates (due to shotgun pellets sprayed into flying animals)[2]
  • Growing community opposition in SA to this recreational activity[3]

The shooting of native waterbirds takes place on both private and public land in SA, with the public land including popular bird-watching areas like Lake Robe, Tolderol and Poocher Swamp. RSPCA South Australia Animal Welfare Advocate, Dr Rebekah Eyers, said it makes no sense to give a handful of hunters priority over the majority who want native waterbirds protected.

“The decision to allow recreational duck shooting ignores the views of most stakeholders, whilst allowing a minority of stakeholders (less than half of 1% of South Australians are shooters) to kill them as a recreational hobby,” Dr Eyers said.

Successive polls have confirmed community support to protect native waterbirds from shooting. The most recent poll (a South Australian ReachTEL poll conducted in March 2020) found that 73% of respondents wanted duck and quail hunting stopped and 74% would support their MP to push for this.

These polls have also found that many South Australians assumed it had already been banned here, as it has been in WA, NSW and QLD for decades.[1]

RSPCA SA is promoting its campaign to end duck shooting on digital billboards located in Thebarton and Edwardstown. (Information of billboard locations and dates below.) RSPCA SA Animal Welfare Advocate Dr Rebekah Eyers said it is difficult to convey the cruelty of duck hunting, an activity that results in shotgun pellets wounding, rather than killing outright, at least a quarter of all birds hit.[2]

“If more people witnessed firsthand what happens in our wetlands and waterways during our duck hunting season, I think the community opposition would be even greater than it is now,” Dr Eyers said.

“We are not talking about a restrained, stationary animal being shot in the head with a bullet and dying quickly.

“Duck hunters fire pellets into moving targets – these birds are flying – so the pellets smash their bills, break their wings and legs and embed in their flesh.

“Once injured, birds try to flee and hide in reeds and many drown or die slow deaths from starvation, infection or predation.”

“At a time when wildlife is more precious than ever to our community, shooting at native waterbirds is a recreational activity that has well and truly lost its social license to continue,” Dr Eyers said.

A Bill to prohibit recreational duck hunting in SA by amending the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 went before parliament last year but was defeated.

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