During March this year, just 30 kms east of Melbourne’s CBD, on our very doorstep, a duck was shot with a blow dart through the head and neck.
Trained rescuers were sent to attend to the duck after Wildlife Victoria received an emergency call from a concerned member of the public. They witnessed a heartbreaking scene.
The dart was lodged in the right side of the chestnut teal duck’s head, next to his eye. A great deal of the blow dart protruded from the animal’s left lower cheek. The missile nearly killed the small creature.
I can’t believe that anyone would commit such an atrocity on an innocent animal. Don’t they realise the fear and pain they’re causing?
The severity of the duck’s injury meant that he would die if not captured quickly. The team of rescuers had their work cut out. The terrain surrounding his habitat was too difficult to go across with nets in hand and the terrified duck was increasingly wary, as he tried to mix with a larger flock to hide himself and his injury.
The rescuers decided to wait for the duck to calm down. As they carefully monitored him, they became aware that he had a partner nearby. Chestnut teal ducks form monogamous pairs that stay together even outside the breeding season. Both the male and female will protect their young together; it made it even more crucial to save the little survivor.
Approaching the duck after night fell, the rescuers used the light from their torch to daze the duck. At last, they were able to catch him with a net and transport him to a local emergency vet.
The vet carefully removed the six inch dart in an operation that took nearly an hour. He had good news too: the duck was unlikely to suffer any permanent injury from the cruel attack.
So we named him Lucky.
The following day, Lucky was transported to a local shelter for rehabilitation. Recovery needed to be as speedy as possible so he could be returned to his mate. Back at the pond, she was pining for him. She called for him with a series of quacks and whistles and kept searching the area.
Lucky’s carer monitored him every day, checking that his wounds were healing and that he was gaining weight. When the time was finally right, and Lucky was strong enough to return to the wild, we were treated to a wonderful sight. Much like ducks do for their injured young, Lucky’s mate feigned injury to distract possible predators, leaving him to rest safely among the reeds and fully recover.
Thankfully it was a happy ending for Lucky. But what happened to him is only the tip of the iceberg.
In the last 12 months we’ve responded to more than 100 emergency calls for native animals subjected to intentionally cruel and violent treatment. Not all of them survived, dying from their wounds, or soon after, from the stress of the savage attacks.
This story is not uncommon, but it makes every creature we are able to rescue and release back into the wild all the more precious.
With your support, we can give a voice to Victorian wildlife and respond to emergency calls and reduce the suffering.