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New Zealand celebrity duck victim of golf cull

Daphne the duck is dead and her suitor Sir Francis Drake missing after a golf course bird cull ahead of next week's New Zealand Open tournament.

Environmentalists are outraged over the loss of the celebrity birds but the hunting authority in New Zealand says there are plenty more of Daphne and Sir Francis's pesky kind around.

The Gulf Harbour Country Club north of Auckland is accused of shooting 20-30 birds of various species at a lake within the golf course to tidy up the venue before the showcase tournament, which features the likes of Australian tennis player turned pro golfer Scott Draper.

An environmental group said Daphne – who came from nearby Tiritiri Matangi island – a scientific reserve – was one of a number of native paradise shelducks visiting the country club lake to moult communally, as she had done last year.

Her shooting was discovered on the weekend by a local resident befriended by the personable Daphne, who wore an identifying band on her leg to avoid such an incident.

The Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi said Jude Smidt placed herself between the fatally injured duck and the shooters to stop her being shot again.

Group chairman Simon Fordham said Daphne was the star attraction on the island, greeting many of its 30,000 annual visitors at the wharf.

"Francis was one of two suitors that have arrived on the island in the last year and he was becoming quite friendly himself," he said.

"If they (the club) don't want ducks they should fill in the pond."

A spokesman for Fish and Game New Zealand said it believed the club had a permit to cull birds for a limited time under controlled circumstances, and had done so in a responsible manner.

"Paradise shelducks are a very fertile species and their populations are very large," he said.

"A whole crop of paradise shelducks landing on your farm or golf course can do a lot of damage to pasture."


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