In a deplorable move Fish and Game has brought carnage early to the paradise shelduck ahead of this year's main duck hunting season, which starts in May.

Open season has been declared on the paradise duck with hunters invited to help reduce the number of the birds. A native New Zealand bird, once declared rare after being decimated by overhunting in the 19th century, the shelduck is now categorised as fair game or a pest because of the supposed damage they cause to hay paddocks and areas of new grass.

Every year SAFE and other animal welfare groups speak out against the massacre of ducks, geese and swans in New Zealand during the hunting season, when many birds, including non-game and protected species, are left crippled to die a slow and lingering death. This is likely to happen again with the paradise shelduck shooting.

SAFE Campaign Manager Mandy Carter questions how a native species can be considered a pest. "Each year we hear excuses for killing birds, but there is a failure to address the role played by humans in causing damage to the environment which is far more extensive than that done by our own native wildlife. Hunters do not acknowledge their true reason for mass slaughtering these beautiful animals. The fact is that these birds are highly prized by hunters, who far from shooting them out of a sense of duty, do it for the gruesome purpose of fun and enjoyment."

The paradise shelduck (pütakitaki /Pütangitangi) is endemic to New Zealand and breeds only here. The intelligent birds are very loyal, forming pair bonds that last their lifetime. They return to the same nesting areas every season, where they share the parenting of their ducklings. They can live for up to 25 years.

"Birds feel pain, stress and fear as much as humans and other animals, and to potentially take a paradise duck from his/her mate is shameful and cruel," Mandy says.

Human encroachment on waterbirds' natural habitat of wetland and grassland, has led them to take refuge in other areas. Despite the Department of Conservation stating that the paradise duck is at risk from introduced predators and the draining of wetlands, along with hunting, and that there are fewer paradise ducks overall, Fish and Game aims to target them by killing birds in certain areas.

Research has shown that duck shooting causes unacceptable levels of suffering and SAFE believes it is our responsibility to treat these animals fairly and humanely. Alternatives include collection of eggs in areas considered overpopulated, which would reduce numbers over time. Farmers should also make use of the bird's natural fear of predators by using crop protection methods such as decoys.


  • Is duck hunting happening in your area? Write a letter to your local paper highlighting the cruelty involved.

22 Feb 2012