Bird cull shocks
A PIGEON cull that left birds slowly dying horrified customers and stallholders at Victoria Park Market.
West Auckland woman Barbara Burnside, who visits the markets once a week, noticed birds stumbling around and falling over three weeks ago.
“I am aghast. The birds died slowly over several days. Stallholders, visitors and tourists were in tears.”
Market manager Bruce Erasmus says the cull was ordered for health reasons.
“Unfortunately it’s something we have to do because we have an open air market.”
Feral pigeons around the food court increases the danger of bird flu.
When bird numbers build up, a pest control company is called in.
The company uses bread spiked with a narcotic to make the birds sleep at night, which lowers their body temperature enough to kill them. Stallholder Gabrielle Van Ryn says there is usually a bird cull on Christmas Day when the market is closed, but it is the first time she has seen one done in the middle of the year.
“There was bread put up on the roofs on the Thursday night and on Sunday there were still birds dying. It was very upsetting.
“Usually it’s an overnight thing and the bodies are gone in the morning.”
Mr Erasmus says the bread was to be removed the next day, but a storm moved it around and some could not be found.
“As a result, we had birds dying over a longer period.”
Watching the birds stumbling around and dying was so distressing, Ms Van Ryn ended up bringing home five sparrows and a pigeon in an effort to save their lives.
“We had heard if you kept them warm, they could survive. It was so horrible seeing them like that.”
She and another stallholder gathered up the birds, put them in a box with a blanket and gave them water.
The birds recovered and she took them to Western Springs to release them.
She says customers walking through the market were asking what was going on.
“It’s not a good look. A couple of tourists were quite concerned.”
Pam Howlett, who runs the Tamaki Bird Rescue centre, says the narcotic is legal in the hands of pest controllers, but is still a “cruel poison”.
“It’s very distressing to watch when they use it.
“They are obliged to pick up the birds immediately and take them away to be humanely destroyed.”
She says it is up to pest controllers to do the cull in the early morning when the birds are hungry and get it over with before the public sees it.
But Mr Erasmus says the narcotic is a humane method.
“Another method is to have someone with a pellet gun sit there and shoot them,” he says.
“It’s not something that’s a good look. We wouldn’t want to do that.”
He says the narcotic poses no risk to people.