The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the government of Santa Fe Province for taking steps to reduce the amount of lead ammunition used in hunting of waterfowl, the first such action of its kind in Argentina.
Enacted for this year's hunting season, the regulation requires hunters to reduce usage of lead shot by 25 percent. The regulation initiates a process that may lead to the eventual ban of lead shot. Lead is known to cause severe adverse effects on the health of animals and humans and permanently pollute the environment.
"This is a huge step forward," said Dr. Marcela Uhart of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the principal investigator in a project that is analyzing the impact of lead on native waterfowl and other wildlife in the Santa Fe Province. "We commend the government of Santa Fe for acting on the preliminary results of our study. This is the first such regulation in the country and, hopefully, it will serve as a model for other provinces to emulate."
Dr. Uhart's project examines the density of lead ammunition pellets in ducks' stomachs and wetlands where hunting occurs. Further, the study examines the damage of lead ammunition to other wildlife and to human health. So far, the research team has collected blood samples from 24 live ducks and tissue samples from about 300 ducks killed by hunters, as well as water, vegetation, and soil samples from areas with and without hunting activity. As expected, preliminary results have shown significant levels of lead in the gizzards, blood, and bones of tested ducks.
The study is conducted in collaboration with Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, and Universidad Nacional del Sur.
Santa Fe—one of eight provinces in Argentina where hunting is permitted—is a hotspot for recreational hunting, where sportsmen from around the world come to hunt waterfowl species such as the rosy-billed pochard and the fulvous whistling duck. Consequently, the hunting pressure on the region is high; it is estimated that more than 10 tons of lead are introduced into the ecosystems of Santa Fe every year.
The new regulation specifies that hunters must reduce the amount of lead shot cartridges by 25 percent when hunting rosy-billed pochards, fulvous whistling ducks, white-faced whistling ducks, and other species. It also enforces restrictions on the use of lead shot in the hunting of terrestrial bird species such as the eared dove, shiny cowbird, and chestnut-capped blackbird.
"The government of Santa Fe has set an admirable precedent in the reduction of lead ammunition in the province's hunting grounds, a move that will benefit the region's people and wildlife," said Dr. Robert Cook, Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS's Living Institutions. "We encourage other states and stakeholders to adopt the same process."
The study was funded by the Morris Animal Foundation.