'Absolutely reckless behaviour': Critically endangered birds killed by drivers

Vehicles racing through the Ashley River where endangered native birds are nesting. Photo: Grant...
Vehicles racing through the Ashley River where endangered native birds are nesting. Photo: Grant Davey via NZH
Endangered native birds are at risk at a Canterbury braided river due to people recklessly driving through their nests.

The Ashley-Rakahuri Rivercare Group works tirelessly to maintain the river and the wildlife that inhabit it.

Member Grant Davey said this year it has had the second biggest black-billed gull colony on the river in 20 years.

"We try to look after the birds that nest here. People see a group of the gulls and think 'oh they're just seagulls' but they're not.

"The black-billed gull is currently listed as nationally critically endangered."

That means they are in the most severely threatened group, facing an immediate high risk of extinction.

But Davey said in recent months there has been about six separate incidents of motorbikes or four-wheeled drive vehicles driving into the birds' nests.

Black-billed gulls found dead by the Ashely Rivercare Group. Photo: Grant Davey via NZH
Black-billed gulls found dead by the Ashely Rivercare Group. Photo: Grant Davey via NZH
About 10 birds have been killed at the river bed this season, he said.

"Two motorbikes came racing through a group of young gulls and later I found a number of dead birds near that area. We can't prove it was the motorbikes but I think it was."

The group has motion-detecting trail cameras set-up at the river.

"Another incident recently we caught on camera was a four-wheeled drive which was driving straight up to the gulls and they all took off in a big cloud and the vehicle just kept going straight through it.

"There are still a number of young birds that can't fly yet."

About 10 black-billed gulls have reportedly been killed at the colony this season. Photo: Grant...
About 10 black-billed gulls have reportedly been killed at the colony this season. Photo: Grant Davey via NZH
Davey said the group and Environment Canterbury have been working to solve the problem for years.

"A lot has been done. We've put signs up, tried to educate people. Environment Canterbury have put fences and gates up. It worked for a while but recently we've seen a spike in the incidents."

The issue has got worse recently due to the low river levels, meaning people can race through them, Davey said.

Dotterels and other native birds live on the river. Their nesting season usually runs from about July to February each year.

Under the Wildlife Act, penalties for hunting, killing or disturbing absolutely protected wildlife can be up to five years imprisonment or a $300,000 fine.

"It is just reckless and absolutely unacceptable behaviour."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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