Massacre on Muttonbird Island
By ANN-MARIE BEATTIE
IN a sickening act of animal cruelty, a large number of fledgling muttonbirds have been slaughtered.
Early morning walkers made the gruesome discovery on Muttonbird Island yesterday, where blood stains marked the pathway and the birds' lifeless bodies were tossed to the side.
WIRES bird coordinator Lynn Gow was first alerted of the attack when she received a phone call at 7.45am.
What she found when she arrived on the island was heartbreaking.
"We have lost count of how many are dead," Ms Gow said.
Together with a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) ranger, Ms Gow eventually found 17 dead birds along the pathway.
There could be many more, however, further damage to the birds' nests would be caused by searching off the track.
Ms Gow also found one bird barely alive and bleeding from its mouth.
She eventually found a vet that was open on Anzac Day and the bird - which had a broken wing, two puncture wounds to the body, broken back and head injuries - was euthanased.
On closer inspection back at the NPWS office, the other birds were found to have suffered from head injuries, stab wounds and broken wings. Some had been decapitated.
"They were tortured. I just hope some got a few good bites in before they were killed," Ms Gow said.
The birds killed were fledgling (young) muttonbirds getting ready to make their winter migration to South East Asia. They prepare for the long flight by coming out of their burrows at night and building up the strength in their wings.
They would have all been gone from the island in just over a week.
Another WIRES bird coordinator, Lily-Marie Lucic, who has spent countless hours gathering research on the birds and rescuing and returning lost birds to the island, said at the fledgling stage the birds are docile and defenseless.
"They would have had no hope - they can hardly walk properly. They would have really suffered the poor buggers. It is just so tragic," she said.
"For people to do this is just sick. What sort of people are they?"
NPWS, as part of the Department of Environment and Conservation, and the Coffs Harbour Police are investigating the incident, which is believed to have occurred between 5pm Tuesday and 4am yesterday.
Anyone who has any information that could assist in the investigations can contact the Coffs Harbour Police on 6652 0299 or Coffs Coast NPWS office on 6652 0900.