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A 'Season of Death And Suffering': Duck Shooting Should Be Banned In Aotearoa New Zealand

The beginning of duck shooting season has come and gone. Yet there are still another two weeks of the season to go. The end cannot come quick enough for me and other animal lovers who loathe this 'season of death and suffering' on our rivers and wetlands.

In the Auckland /Waikato region the duck shooting season will run between 4th May – 3 June 2024. You are allowed eight bags of Mallard and Grey Duck and ten bags of Paradise Sheldrake duck in a single day. Also up for grabs are black swans, quail, pukeko, pheasant and geese. As if this isn’t enough, some of these ducks are native to Aotearoa New Zealand. In fact, three native duck species, in decline or endangered, are allowed to be shot under the outdated Wildlife Act 1953. This includes the Grey Duck (Parera), the Shoveler (Kuruwhengi) and the Paradise Shelduck (Putangitangi).

During a recent kayak down a section of the Waikato River a few days after duck shooting season began I discovered illegally dumped ducks; a breasted black swan carcass and putrid duck bodies floating in the river; and hundreds of beer cans and alcohol bottles left on the river edge.

A black sack full of ducks left by a rubbish bin at Elbow Reserve, Franklin. (Photo credit: Lynley Tulloch)
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Fish and Game are now investigating after a complaint was launched. The rules are not being followed and this has been indicated by numerous previous reports of dead ducks dumped across Aotearoa New Zealand during duck hunting season every year.

The breasted black swan that I photographed is an example of hunters taking the breast from the bird and then discarding the bird in the river. This is also against the regulations set out by the Fish and Game Council. Fish and Game New Zealand spokesperson Richie Cosgrove said that dumping of bird remains is unacceptable and against the rules.

Breasted black swan and duck carcass left to decay on the Waikato River (photo credit: Lynley Tulloch)

Further recent footage by SAFE show birds been shot and flailing around in the water before being retrieved by a hunter and killed. The suffering of the birds after been shot is tragic.

The degree of suffering is magnified by the sheer volume of birds killed each year during duck shooting season. A research article by McDougall and Amundson in 2017 stated that there are 40,000 hunters annually who are out to bag mallard and grey ducks. The endemic grey duck (also known as parera) is classified as “critically endangered”. There has been so much interbreeding and hybridisation between the grey duck and the mallard that very few pure grey ducks now exist according to New Zealand Birds Online. Since both sexes of the Grey Duck, as well as the female Shoveler, look similar to the female Mallard, only a ban on all duck-shooting will protect them.

These ducks need our protection. NZ Birds Online states that: “Although critically rare it remains a gamebird and can be legally hunted during the annual waterfowl season (May-June). Because of its similarity to mallard both on the wing and in the hand, as well as uncertainty about characteristics of hybrids, only a cessation of all duck hunting will prevent it from being shot”.

Also in need of help is the Pukeko, an iconic native waterfowl that is shot in the tens of thousands every season, mostly ‘for fun’. All duck species are in decline, including the abundant Mallard. Over-hunting, habitat loss, pollution and climate change are the main culprits.

I am calling for compassion and kindness to be extended to Aotearoa’s beautiful waterfowl. Killing animals should never be a source of fun.

If this is indeed a sport then I am on the side of the duck. In 2020 I began a petition to ban duck shooting in New Zealand. It now has over 13,000 signatures. Australia has banned duck-shooting in ACT, Western Australia, NSW and Queensland. It is time for New Zealand to catch up.

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