Bird cull shocks

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

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.

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