Game reserve closes early for endangered parrot release
The duck hunting season in a Victorian game reserve is finishing early this year to make way for the planned release of a critically endangered parrot.
The Victorian government will shut the Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve on Saturday ahead of the official end of the duck season on May 30.
This is being done so the release of captive-bred orange-bellied parrots can be timed to coincide with the arrival of their wild migrating counterparts.
The decision has angered Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party vice chairman Ben Collyer because the season had already been shortened to five weeks and hunters were limited to four birds per day.
"I'm sure they can wait a week to release these parrots and still have success in their program," Mr Collyer said on Thursday.
The critically endangered bird - its wild population was as low as 15 in 2016 - breeds in the Tasmanian wilderness before migrating to Victoria in late autumn.
Victoria's Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action is leading a four-year breed-and-release program to save the species, with partners including Australian National University, Zoos Victoria and Birdlife Australia.
"Hunting activity close to a known orange-bellied parrot location has the potential to interrupt important feeding and flocking activities, causing stress, and may cause abandonment from the site," a DEECA spokesman said.
"The species is known to be sensitive to noise and susceptible to disturbance and is usually found in locations away from areas with frequent disturbance."
Mr Collyer said the parrot had been released at similar times in the past without affecting the hunting season.
"Connewarre was saved by hunters decades ago and is still managed by hunters," he said.
"This government is taking advantage of hunters' efforts by stabbing them in the back and closing the reserve."
The party's MP for Eastern Victoria, Jeff Bourman, branded the decision an abuse of power by the state government.
"Given the politicised nature of this year's season I smell dirty political interference," he said.
State parliamentary committee hearings on the future of bird hunting in Victoria will begin on May 26.