Almost on a regular basis these days reports come in of unnatural deaths in native animals. Invariably these are found to be caused by human practices. So how much do we care? In America at the end of last year 16 swans were found dead by an unknown cause near Mill Pond, Massachusetts,. The only concern arising out of this was whether or not the swans might pass something unpleasant on to humans.
State waterfowl biologist H Heussmann reassured the people that whatever it was would be unlikely to be harmful to humans. He had seen die-offs of Canadian geese in other parts of the state from lead poisoning, and couldn't totally rule out lead poisoning in the case of the swans.
Since 1974 the Minnesota University raptor centre has admitted on average 25-30 eagles each year through acute lead poisoning during the hunting seasons. Extensive tests have isolated lead residues from high velocity rifle bullet fragments and shotgun pellets, mainly from carcasses and gut piles from deer, pheasants, rabbits, squirrels etc left behind by hunters.
It is also accepted in America that accumulated lead shot lies in large quantities in the sediment of still- water wetlands, where unrecovered waterbird carcasses are left to rot after the hunting season.
How will this affect Australians? Well, no unnatural poisonous substance in our waterways is ever good. Oddly a large number of us are of the opinion that deaths of non-target native animals is not good either. So really it comes down to a question of values, and our attitudes to wildlife. Politicians making decisions should always be cautious before dispensing favours on demand. Grant a gift to a human being, it is very difficult to take it away again. People who carry guns are not known for their compassion. Yet encouraged by our leaders, like in America a gun-cult is insidiously being expanded across Australia by parents through their children.
As a nation once revered for its fun-loving, genuinely gentle spirit, do we really want to become a carbon copy of warring, gun-toting America?
- P Edwards