Annual Slaughter of Migrating Waders on Barbados

Wildlife NewsA small minority of Barbadians are responsible for shooting up to 45,000
migrating waders (shorebirds) every year between August and November in
Barbados, West Indies. These birds breed in North America, sometimes as far North as the Arctic, and then migrate South to spend the winter in Latin America. En route they fly over Barbados.

The slaughter on Barbados is highly organized and takes place in a number of shallow, man-made lakes, which are made attractive to exhausted migrating waders. The lakes have up to 4 acres of open water with specially built mud banks within range of the shooting hut. Caged birds (maimed from last years' shoot) are placed close to the mud banks and the hunters use whistles to imitate the bird calls, which are supplemented by amplified recording calls to attract entire flocks. Decoys are also used.

At this time of year large flocks of exhausted birds fly in after a storm.
They are met by a barrage of fire from semi-automatic weapons. The shooters often wait for the birds to settle before firing and it is a matter of pride not to let one single bird escape. The lakes (known locally as "shooting swamps") are often manned all day during the shooting season, seven days a week and it has actually become a "contest" amongst the four known swamps to see who gets the most birds. The social and racial status of the shooters are mostly white and well-to-do in a nation where 90% of the people have African roots.

This practice has been going on for generations but has become more refined in the last fifty years, with the introduction of sophisticated weaponry.
Such shooting does not take place on the other Caribbean Islands, nor further north. The birds being shot are fully protected all the year round in both Canada and America, and have been for about a century now. Barbados has never signed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act but they did sign the CITES
Act back in 1992.

They include species such as the Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpiper, but of particular concern is the American Golden Plover, whose population is declining rapidly. All species are shot regardless and there is even an instance of the Eskimo Curlew being shot in 1963, now thought to be extinct.

A Barbadian named Maurice Hutt produced a paper in 1991 on "swamp shooting" and it makes for horrific reading. Mr. Hutt's efforts to prevent swamp
shooting were suppressed by the powerful shooting lobby in Barbados and it continues unabated today. In fact recent estimates indicate that the
position may have worsened and that up to 45,000 birds may be killed each year. It would seem that the only way to have this annual slaughter stopped would be if pressure from the American & Canadian governments and other outside authorities were to be exerted on the Barbados government.

WHSRN is the driving force right now to bring an end to these barbaric shoots and/or impose a Hunting Season with limits & restrictions..... our donations are much welcomed and greatly needed.

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