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First-ever count of native stubble quail

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Just 101 Birds


Yet "Independent" Regulator's Report Extrapolates the Number to 3.1 Million


Australia's native Stubble Quail, monogamous (Pedler 1975), adversely impacted by fire and floods (Frith & Carpenter 1980), and under fire by recreational hunters. Pic R. Bird

 

Tanya Plibersek’s extinction prevention goals may be terrific. But if States allow senseless slaughter of our native species for fun, it’s a travesty.


Enter Victoria, a stand-out red-neck state, persisting in allowing activities other states banned decades ago, like recreational shooting of ducks and quail.

For 25% of each year in Victoria, little native Stubble Quail are pummelled with shotgun pellets in the name of recreation, despite government data on harvest estimates showing an alarming long-term decline in the bird’s numbers.

"Long-term harvest records can be used as a proxy to monitor abundance" - GMA/Arthur Rylah Institute September 2022


Perhaps under pressure to justify its relentless quail slaughter, the Game Management Authority (GMA) recently commissioned a first-ever “count” of Stubble Quail in our State.

GMA assisted in drafting the resultant report which was released late last month. If a demonstration of bias was the aim of the report, we believe it’s hit the mark.

  • The report’s authors have admitted only 101 birds were counted, yet the figure was extrapolated via complex methodologies up to an extraordinary estimate of 3.1 million.

  • The report states quail shooting is “popular” when only 0.03 percent of the population participate in it. (Our association alone has far more supporters than that who are vehemently opposed to the pastime. Aside from cruelty and issues of hunters’ trespass on farms, who wants toxic lead pumped around their paddocks or the unnecessary risk of spread of foot and mouth disease?)

  • As for accuracy, the report’s authors have previously stated a co-efficient of variation (error indicator) should not exceed 15% for results to be acceptable. (Abundance estimates of game ducks in Victoria, Ramsey and Fanson 2022, p 14-15). However in this quail report, the co-efficient of variation is 29%. (In other words, the estimate of 3.1 million quail is unreliable.)

 


Many people wonder how much meat there is on these tiny birds, especially after pulling out visible shrapnel. (Most lead fragments are too tiny to see).





 
  • In an attempt to support its extravagant claims of bird numbers, the report references a survey in SA (carried out by members of a shooting club) which found the birds to be “abundant”. In the next breath it acknowledges the lack of scientific rigour behind that result.

  • Finally, in an email exchange late September, the regulator advised that “Long-term harvest records show no ongoing decline in harvest, which can be used as a proxy to monitor abundance”. But data published on government websites (see graph), does indeed show long-term harvest decline. It’s alarming government spokesmen appear to have missed such critical data.

The regulator has been quick to publish the report’s estimate for stubble quail population, failing to detail its shortcomings, and even suggesting it could be an underestimate. No answer has been forthcoming from the regulator about why it couldn’t also be an overestimate given its acknowledged inaccuracy. The report has not been subject to an independent peer review.

In the midst of an extinction crisis, there is no excuse for an independent regulator tasked with ensuring sustainability, to gamble the future of our native birds on skimpy (and questionable) data and a model that has not yet cut its teeth. Yet we’ve no doubt that’s precisely what the GMA will do, to justify a further recreational quail shoot in early 2023.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information show key GMA staff involved in this report have been long time holders of duck and quail shooting licences themselves.