Mass Eagle Poisoning

Daniel Benitez, Staff Writer

A New Zealand man faces 14 days in jail and a $2500 fine for baiting and killing 406 wedge-tailed eagles.

Murray James Silvester, a farm worker from Victoria, Australia, pleaded guilty to killing off 406 of the protected species over a two-year span that began in October 2016. The carcasses were hidden and later discovered throughout Silvester’s property. In order to kill the eagles, Silvester injected the poisonous chemical Lannate into the necks of livestock as bait.

“Eagles eat the sick [and] slow moving targets and eat the poison for themselves,” explained Ann Akey, Woodside science teacher.

With a wingspan of 7.5 feet, the wedge-tailed eagle is New Zealand’s biggest bird of prey. It is a protected species in Australia, and deliberately killing the birds can result in a maximum fine of $7,928.50 or up to six months in prison. This is not the only case of illegal killings of eagles but rather a continual problem throughout Australia’s farmlands.

“We need these animals to [continue] doing what they’re doing,” Jose Valencia, a Woodside High School student, commented with respect to the species’ preservation.

A lot of speculation circles Silvester’s motive: some theorize that the injections were merely to protect the livestock while others believe Silvester acted under the directions of his employer. No matter the case, Chrisanthi Paganis, the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning prosecutor, maintains that Silvester is to blame.

“His actions were conscious, voluntary and deliberate,” Paganis remarked. “He Googled [the eagles]. He knew they were [a] protected species.”