Four Belgian men will appear in court on Monday facing charges related to the purchase of thousands of ducks, which were then released into a private hunting ground in the province of Antwerp to be killed for sport.
The men – aged 49, 50, 63 and 51 – are said to have bought the ducks from a wholesaler dealing in game and poultry meat from East Flanders, according to Nieuwsblad.
Two of the four defendants were caught red-handed by Bird Conservation Flanders (Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen) back in the summer of 2020.
They were found releasing 500 captive-bred ducks of a planned 1,000 onto private property.
Bird Conservation Flanders became suspicious when they saw that the pond on the property was full of ducklings but no adult ducks, and filed a complaint demanding €5,000 in damages and the revoking of the men’s hunting licences.
They argue that the release of captive-bred game into the wild for sporting hunting makes a mockery of true hunting, and that such practices pose a serious risk of ecological disruption.
They also point out the scale of the operation, which involved thousands of ducks, as well as the fact that it took place in what’s considered to be a high-nature-value area in the province of Antwerp.
Because the ducks were bred and raised in captivity, they don’t know how to get food on their own. The “hunters” in this case fed them. They purchased the animals in July with the intent to shoot them in August, when duck hunting season opens.
In addition to being unable to find their own food, the purchased-ducks are also more susceptible to predators.
But “hunters are also trying to do something about this,” said Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen.
“They will try to remove predators and other species that may threaten their hunting game as much as possible.”
The suspects in this case already received a warning from the Nature Inspectorate in October of 2019, when they were caught releasing large numbers of captive-bred pheasants just before a hunting party.