Ducks in the Line of Fire   
 
Ducks in the Line of Fire  
The images in the following program are highly sensitive and may be as disturbing to viewers as they were to us. However, we have to show the truth about cruelty to animals, praying that you will help to stop it.

On this week’s edition of Stop Animal Cruelty we’ll find out about the barbarous killing of our wonderful, noble feathered friend, the duck. Ducks are highly intelligent, have rich emotional and social lives and communicate through vocalizations called quacking. Ducks recognize one another through their distinctive quacks, and variations in the tone of a quack communicate different emotional states.

A female duck sits on her eggs for up to 28 days until they hatch. New hatchlings are able to swim just a few hours after birth, and can travel considerable distances to find water. Ducks also form close bonds with other ducks and with animals of other species. In one case a male duck in Sweden became the foster father of five chicks after becoming enamored of their hen mother.

In addition, ducks show altruism and cooperation, often flying in groups to protect and assist one another during long journeys. In one instance Dr. Arthur Peterson of Florida, USA found a male duck aiding his blind partner by giving her vocal cues to help her find her way around, thus acting as a “seeing-eye duck.”

However, despite their compassionate natures, tens of millions of ducks are slaughtered in cold blood by so-called “sport hunters” each year. In the US alone, the animal welfare group In Defense of Animals estimates 14 million ducks are murdered by shooters annually. Besides being decimated by hunters, duck populations are facing tremendous pressure from their habitats being substantially reduced in size due to climate change, land development, and drought.

Some birds can fly 12,000 kilometers without stopping. It's amazing; they can navigate, they can fly day and they can fly night so you are dealing with intelligent species. All different species have their own sort of intelligence to suit their environment and it's amazing what birds can do, but of course when they come here to Victoria, there's a good chance that they will get shot either legally or illegally by duck shooters.

Laurie Levy is the Campaign Director of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting, a non-profit group in Australia that for over 25 years has wholeheartedly strived to protect these beautiful, sensitive beings.

We started the campaign in 1986 to bring an end to the terrible injustice of guys going out there with semi-automatic shotguns and blowing away Australia's beautiful native waterbirds. And in those days Victoria was the capital of Australia as far as duck shooting went; we had something like 95-100,000 duck shooters in this one state alone, and I believe the only way we could have an impact there was to get a lot of media coverage.

And over the last 20 years the numbers of duck shooters in Victoria have declined from 95 to 100,000 down to 20,000 and that's due to public opinion and also in that time three other states in Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland have already banned the recreational shooting of native waterbirds. A Morgan Research poll conducted in October 2007 showed that 87% of Victorians want the recreational shooting of native waterbirds banned

Duck shooting is a brutal practice with the sole objective of killing, maiming, injuring and capturing as many ducks as possible. Most hunters use shotguns to kill the birds, and some use semi-automatic weapons if allowed by law.

A shotgun sprays hundreds of burning, piercing pellets at one time and increases the chances of injuring or killing a duck or any other bird in the vicinity. Typically when a flock of ducks takes to the air, a hunter will fire multiple shots at the flock, causing hundreds of red-hot pellets to spray into the birds’ fragile bodies and severely injure or kill them.

Those birds suffer horrific injuries. If you can imagine being blasted with a shotgun, duck shooters fire about 200 pellets at them so anything from two or three pellets to 200 can hit a bird. Now, if two or three pellets hit, pellets can be lodged next to a nerve, or a bone, can shatter a bone so birds suffer shocking injuries. They get shot through the eye; you see them with their bills blown away. They’re shot in the body, they have legs blown off, and it’s really a barbaric type of activity.

Depending on the size of the pellet, a duck will typically die when three to eight pellets directly hit him or her; however, many of the other birds caught in the radius of a shotgun blast may also be struck by the lethal pellets, causing tremendously painful and often crippling injuries. The mutilated birds may be able to continue flying in dire agony but will eventually die from their wounds in a slow, painful death.

For every hundred ducks shot, 150 are injured and meet this gruesome fate. Yet other maimed ducks, unable to fly, fall to the ground and suffer further harm upon impact. The hunters then go in search of the downed animals and once they’re found, viciously shoot the helpless birds again or savagely twist and break their necks.

Approximately 66% of ducks downed are not dead upon retrieval and those that are not located, face a slow, anguished death from bleeding, starvation, trauma, disease and exposure to the elements. According to research done in North America, 20 to 40% of ducks and geese hit by shotgun pellets, regardless if they die immediately or are wounded, are never retrieved by shooters.

Due to the indiscriminate nature of shotgun blasts and the utter callousness of hunters, many non-targeted and protected birds are inadvertently killed in bird hunting. Furthermore, thousands of shotgun pellets, which are sometimes made of highly toxic lead, litter the wilderness and are accidently ingested by unsuspecting wildlife, who die from lead poisoning after weeks of unbearable suffering.

Western Australia banned the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in 1990; that was followed in 1995 by New South Wales, and Queensland then followed 10 years later in 2005 and they did it mainly because of the shocking cruelty involved in the shooting of native waterbirds. Shooters use shotguns, which are scatter guns and they only have a range of about 50 meters. They fire at birds that are out of range and they wound them and at least 25% of birds that are shot are wounded and those birds will fly away and die a slow death.

The Coalition Against Duck Shooting actively protects birds from shooters and treats those ducks and other waterfowl wounded by pellets.

Our rescue team this year will comprise of about 200 members of the public who will go out to the wetlands. Our role is to move birds away from the shooters before the opening time and bring in any wounded birds.

We have mobile veterinary clinics up on the wetlands and also to bring out any illegally shot, protected or threatened species that are shot. But in the early days, in the 1980's and early 1990's we would go to Lake Bolac in central Victoria and that wetland was about 15 kilometers by about eight kilometers in those days and you would get 10-15,000 duck shooters on one wetland.

And it was frightening out there, birds were falling out of the sky, you had duck shooters in those days, using semi-automatic weapons so it was quite frightening but we used to bring out three or 400 wounded birds that were treated in our mobile veterinary clinics on that one weekend alone.

What drives waterfowl hunters to murder ducks and other birds? We asked Mr. Levy for his perspective.

I see duck shooters being similar to arsonists. Arsonists can’t help themselves when they start fires, even though they probably know that those fires are going to kill people possibly, it can kill wildlife and of course destroy the vegetation and the environment. Duck shooters also can’t help themselves and that’s why they illegally took water last year from the Latrobe River, they wanted birds to shoot and they were prepared to do anything to get those birds on their property to shoot.

So native waterbirds have always had a really tough time and I don’t necessarily blame the shooters, because they can’t help themselves. But I do blame politicians that allow it to happen and politicians with one stroke of a pen could put a stop to that brutality and that suffering permanently as three other states in Australia have already done.

What should we do if we discover a duck or other waterfowl that has been shot? What can we do to prevent them from being targeted by shooters in the first place? Mr. Levy has the following advice.

Take the bird to a vet, or ring the wildlife department in whatever country the bird is in because waterbird numbers right around the world are decreasing, mainly because of climate change and it’s going to be a lot tougher in the future. So what people could do is just do what we’ve done, take people out to wetlands if duck shooting is allowed, wear bright-colored clothes, stop birds from being shot, and have mobile veterinary clinics on wetlands to deal with injured waterbirds.

If we speak out together against these atrocities, we can stop them. We can let others know about the cruelty perpetrated by bird hunters and write to community leaders and government officials to advocate for an immediate ban on this abhorrent activity. By raising awareness and voicing our disgust about such practices, we can ultimately abolish all forms of animal cruelty.

Laurie Levy, we truly appreciate what the Coalition Against Duck Shooting is doing in the state of Victoria to safeguard ducks and other waterfowl from shooters. May your ultimate goal of a hunting ban in Victoria soon be realized, with the result of several hundred thousand precious duck lives being saved each year.

For more information on the Coalition Against Duck Shooting, please visit www.Duck.org.au
or connect with the Coalition at www.Facebook.com

Thank you for your presence today on Stop Animal Cruelty. May humanity soon learn to love all beings and live in peace and harmony.
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