LAST UPDATED: 5 January 2017
Just weeks into Victoria's 2016 duck shooting season, Australian waterbirds seeking refuge at the temporarily protected, Johnson Swamp, in regional Victoria, were set to find themselves in the middle of a killing field.
The Australasian Bittern: shy, elusive — and endangered. Only 850 of these beautiful waterbirds are left in the wild.
This major wetland had been closed to shooters for the first weeks of the season due to the presence of the endangered Australasian Bittern. And our investigators discovered that since then many thousands of waterbirds - from beautiful 'game' species to protected and threatened species — had also found their way to the relative safety of Johnson Swamp.
We gave the Victorian government an ultimatum: close the wetland and protect threatened waterbirds or face us in the Federal Court. Just days before shooters were to descend, the government agreed to shut Johnson Swamp to shooters — for the entire duck hunting season.
For the more than 60,000 native waterbirds who gathered at this key wetland when so many others were dry, this meant peace and safety. It meant life.
And, for the Australasian Bittern, this victory could make the difference between survival and disaster.
This major win came a week after we took the government to the Supreme Court in Victoria to force the closure of another wetland, Lake Toolondo, near Horsham.
Freckled Ducks — Australia's rarest native duck — were among dozens of 'protected' species illegally slaughtered and left to rot by shooters over the 2016 Easter weekend. It was nothing short of a massacre, yet the Victorian government was refusing to close the lake to protect the threatened waterbirds remaining.
So we went to court, laid out our evidence before a Judge and a trial date was set. Then, with a trial looming over them, the Ministers responsible announced they would close part of Lake Toolondo to shooters — the part of the lake where most of the waterbirds are living.
When we learned that threatened Blue-billed Ducks were taking refuge from the drought at Lake Elizabeth — a wetland artificially filled with water — we knew we had to act. Up to 20,000 other waterbirds were there too, and they would all be at risk of stress, injury and death if shooters were allowed to blast them out of the sky.
We filed an urgent injunction application, seeking the closure of Lake Elizabeth to hunters.
AND WE DID IT. At the eleventh hour, the state government finally agreed to close Lake Elizabeth wetland, meaning 20,000 more lives would be saved.
The real problem is: this duck shooting season should never have been approved at all. With drought conditions and waterbird numbers plummeting, the last thing these precious native animals should face is the barrel of a shotgun.
And it shouldn't be left up to animal protection charities to force the government to do their duty and protect native wildlife. But — thanks to your support — along with the Coalition Against Duck Shooting we are defending these animals with everything we've got — on the wetlands and in the courts. We'll keep fighting until the battle is won.
How you can help ducks
- Donate to support our ongoing work to protect waterbirds
- Tell your state MP to support an end to duck slaughter