Media releases 2013

Media Release


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Box Flat bird massacre exposes Napthine Government incompetence and failure to regulate recreational duck shooting seasons

$10,000 reward offered for information leading to a conviction

The Coalition Against Duck Shooting (CADS) is offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the prosecution and conviction of shooters responsible for the massacre of native waterbirds at Box Flat wetland, near Boort in northwest Victoria, on the opening morning of the 2013 duck shooting season. The $10,000 reward will be shared between those who provide information which leads to the conviction of any of the shooters involved.   

Campaign Director Laurie Levy said today: “We are offering this reward to encourage shooters to identify those responsible for the appalling massacre of threatened species and other native waterbirds. According to government authorities, up to 150 duck shooters were involved.  It follows a nine-month investigation by the Napthine Government which failed to identify or charge any of the shooters responsible.  

“We are not surprised that the long-winded government investigation failed.  A week after the slaughter and after the investigation had been called, a team of seven rescuers searched Box Flat and within two hours recovered 43 dead threatened Freckled Ducks (one of the rarest waterbirds in the world).  These birds had been illegally shot the week before and were still floating on the water.  It is concerning that the Government investigation team missed this vital evidence.

“It was only because of a tip-off to CADS and the subsequent media coverage, that Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh was forced to establish an investigation into the slaughter. We received information that approximately 2,000 native waterbirds (including over 200 Freckled Ducks) were shot that morning,” Levy said.

“The Box Flat private wetland is located in Peter Walsh’s Swan Hill electorate and we were told that the 150 shooters present that morning were mainly locals and Mr Walsh’s own constituents.  They had also been joined by a number of shooters from a Bendigo gun club.  It was reported that the Minister went to school and played football with one of the landowners.

“Yet, surprisingly, instead of sending a strong message reflecting the public’s outrage at the cruel and illegal massacre, the Napthine Government rewarded hunters with $17.6 million of taxpayers’ money from this year’s state budget, even before the investigation had been concluded.  At no stage has the minister offered a reward to encourage shooters to speak out.  Nor did the shooting organisations, who feigned outrage at the massacre, offer a reward to identify the culprits.    

“Prior to the 2013 opening, it has come to light that a hunter had warned Mr Walsh’s departmental staff to watch Box Flat because a slaughter had taken place on this wetland the year before and there was talk that it could happen again.  The 2012 incident had been successfully covered up.  With this knowledge, why didn’t Game Victoria close the wetland to shooting, or at least take the warning seriously enough to have wildlife compliance officers policing Box Flat on the opening of the 2013 duck shooting season?  The Director of Game Victoria, Simon Toop, has stated to the media that the department was more interested in going after rescuers on another wetland.  This is not altogether surprising as we believe Mr Toop, as an active duck shooter, has a serious and unacceptable conflict of interest.

“We hope the $10,000 reward will encourage shooters with information to go to the police,” Levy concluded.

For further information, contact:
Laurie Levy  
Campaign Director  
Mobile:  0418 392 826

Monday, March 25, 2013

Illegal slaughter includes 40 rare and endangered Freckled Ducks to be displayed outside the Premier’s Office today – Levy calls for action on Box Flat bird massacre

1 Treasury Place, East Melbourne, at 10am, Monday, March 25, 2013

The Coalition Against Duck Shooting will be displaying 40 illegally shot, rare and endangered Freckled Ducks outside the Premier’s Office at 10am today, together with a protected swan and many other protected and game species that were recovered by rescuers on the weekend.

Campaign Director, Laurie Levy, said today that the birds were recovered following a tip-off of the illegal slaughter of over 200 rare Freckled Ducks and around 2,000 other protected and game birds on the Box Flat floodplains near the town of Boort, in northwest Victoria, on the Opening morning of the 2013 recreational duck shooting season (on Saturday, March 16).

An investigation into the Box Flat bird massacre, announced by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) last Sunday, March 17, “appears to be more of a cover up of the crime scene than an investigation” with rescuers finding 40 rare Freckled Ducks at the wetland this weekend, Levy said. “If DPI was serious about its investigation, why did rescuers find 40 of this endangered species a week later? Surely if they are serious, they would have swept the wetland for carcasses for evidence of the true extent of the illegal slaughter.

“Following the Opening of the 2013 duck shooting season, information was leaked to us that DPI was trying to cover up a massacre of birds at the Box Flat floodplains near Boort. It was estimated that around 2000 birds were slaughtered including mainly game species, but also 200 rare and threatened Freckled Ducks, threatened Blue-billed Ducks, around 50 swans and other protected species including birds of prey.

“We believe the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) tried to have this wetland closed to shooting because of the large numbers of threatened species such as Freckled and Blue-billed Ducks, but DPI, with its huge conflict of interest, left it open for shooters,” Levy said.

“Approximately 150 mainly local duck shooters were present on the Opening morning.  We were informed that members of the Field & Game Bendigo branch were also present (however, we have no evidence they participated in the slaughter), and that a similar unreported incident took place on this floodplain last year.
We have been told that even though DPI is now investigating, the full extent of this incident will never be made public as the vast majority of birds would have been removed before the investigation commenced.”

Levy went on to say: “This weekend, duck rescuers searched this wetland for dead and wounded birds. Forty dead, rare and endangered Freckled Ducks were recovered as well as a swan, grebe, coot and a large number of game species that had been shot and illegally left on the water to rot. There were also large numbers of wounded birds on this wetland which rescuers were unable to catch.”

Following this incident, the Coalition Against Duck Shooting is calling for the sacking of Game Victoria Director, Simon Toop, a long-time duck shooter. Levy said, “We believe that all Game Victoria compliance officers and staff who are duck shooters and members of the shooting organisations have a serious conflict of interest and should be moved to other jobs within DPI that are totally unrelated to duck shooting. These officers include Rodney Carter, Anthony Ball, Heath Dunstan, John Turnball and Stuart McGlashan.

“The DPI’s Game Victoria officers are only there to serve the shooters, not to protect native waterbirds. They are the gamekeepers. And with the transfer of management of duck shooting seasons from DSE to DPI in 2011, there is no one looking after threatened species like the endangered Freckled Duck, which is one of the ten most rare waterbirds in the world,” Levy said.

Victorian Greens Party MP Sue Pennicuik also raised the matter of the Box Flat bird massacre in Parliament last week:

UPDATE: Another 10 dead Freckled Ducks have been found at two other wetlands near Boort, where there were no DPI compliance officers to police hunter conduct.  

For further information, please contact: Laurie Levy, Campaign Director  Mobile: 0418 392 826

Media Release

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rescue teams ready to defy new laws which prevent help for wounded waterbirds at the opening of the 2013 duck shooting season – Saturday, March 16

Media crews cover war zones but are banned from Victoria’s wetlands for safety reasons – could recreational duck shooters really be considered more dangerous than the Taliban?

Rescue team to target Lake Cullen (near Kerang, northwest Victoria)

New laws introduced by the Victorian Government will attempt to prevent duck rescuers, journalists, photographers and camera crews from going closer than 25 metres to the water’s edge during the 2013 duck shooting season, Coalition Against Duck Shooting Campaign Director Laurie Levy said today.

“The Australian media covers wars around the world, yet the Victorian government says the ban on media and other non-hunters is for their personal safety.  So does the Victorian government really believe that recreational duck shooters represent a bigger threat to our media than the Taliban in Afghanistan?” posed Levy.

“With no rescuers and no media allowed on the wetlands, it appears that the government is really trying to stop the public from being able to witness the shocking cruelty inflicted on Australia’s native waterbirds.  Every duck season, many birds are inevitably wounded and are not retrieved by shooters.  Protected and threatened species continue to be illegally shot,” Levy said.

“The RSPCA has refused to put undercover inspectors on the wetlands because of the danger posed by duck shooters.  The Department of Sustainability and Environment compliance officers must be accompanied by Victoria Police before approaching armed duck shooters,” Levy said.

“This leaves only the Department of Primary Industries to prosecute duck shooters for cruelty.  However, the DPI compliance officers have a serious conflict of interest, as they themselves are duck shooters, so have no interest in prosecuting their duck shooting mates.

“If recreational duck shooters are considered so dangerous, how can the recreational shooting of native waterbirds be allowed to continue?  What about the safety of child shooters on the wetlands?  How can the Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, be allowed to recruit and blood 12-year-old children to practice their shooting on live native waterbirds?  And what about the birds that the shooters wound and fail to retrieve?” Levy asked.

“The Victorian government seems to go to extraordinary lengths to protect the dwindling numbers of Victorian duck shooters who make up only 0.4 per cent of the state’s population.

“The Coalition Against Duck Shooting Rescue teams won’t be deterred by the threats of prosecutions, higher fines or the prospect of more court cases this year.  Rescuers will be back on the wetlands to help native waterbirds.

“Rescue teams will target Lake Cullen, approximately 25kms from Kerang, northwest Victoria, on the opening morning of the 2013 duck shooting season,” Levy concluded.

For further information, please contact:  
Laurie Levy, Campaign Director, Mobile: 0418 392 826

Media Release

Friday, 18 January 2013


The Coalition Against Duck Shooting has raised $10,000 with the aim of assisting the RSPCA, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) or Victoria Police to prosecute recreational duck shooters for cruelty offences during the 2013 duck shooting season.

Campaign Director Laurie Levy said today:  “Undercover inspectors and officers are needed on the wetlands to apprehend and prosecute recreational duck shooters for acts of cruelty to native waterbirds. For example, the vast majority of birds shot are still alive when they hit the water. Shooters who make no effort to retrieve wounded birds have committed an offence and must be prosecuted.

“Outside the duck shooting season, anyone who harms native waterbirds will be prosecuted.  Shooting native birds with scatterguns is unavoidably cruel, with many birds injured by the spray of pellets. Duck shooters can be prosecuted for failing to retrieve wounded birds under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act, as stated in the Code of Practice for Animal Welfare in Hunting.  However, with the millions of native waterbirds shot over the years, to our knowledge, there has never been a single prosecution for cruelty. The cruelty issue has been completely ignored over the years by those with the power to prosecute.

“Yet, duck shooters can be prosecuted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act, if they fail to adhere to the Code of Practice for hunters.

“While the DPI has the power to prosecute, it also promotes duck shooting seasons and has a serious conflict of interest.  This is made worse by the fact that most officers in the DPI’s Game Victoria, which overseas duck shooting seasons, are themselves duck shooters and members of hunting clubs. They are the gamekeepers who are employed to assist duck shooters.  There are no government departments overseeing and protecting the interests of native waterbirds or providing veterinary care for the wounded.

“We know the Police are short staffed, so it will fall to the RSPCA to prosecute duck shooters for cruelty.  The Coalition Against Duck Shooting is prepared to invest $10,000 so that cruelty is finally dealt with in the courts.  To achieve this, the RSPCA would need undercover inspectors on the wetlands during the duck shooting season.

“Since 1993, the Victorian Government’s own Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has continually called for recreational duck shooting to be banned on cruelty grounds.  However, both Liberal/National and Labor governments in Victoria have refused to act on this advice, despite being aware that a minimum of 25 per cent of shot birds are wounded.

“Rescuers will return to the wetlands in 2013 to provide urgent veterinary care and expect undercover inspectors to be policing duck shooters.  It needs to be remembered that only 0.4 per cent of Victoria’s population are duck shooters,” Levy concluded.

For further information contact:

Laurie Levy, Campaign Director, 0418 392 826