Sending our birds crackers

PENELOPE BRADSHAW is a Hamilton Hill resident and BILL BATEMAN is an associate professor at Curtin University’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences.

THANK you for your story about banning fireworks at Manning Park. 

We would like to comment on the two studies commissioned by Cockburn council as we feel both studies contain limitations.

In 2001, following complaints about fireworks from the community, there was a count of water birds before and after fireworks. A decrease in water birds over the period occurred. 

Some birds were not seen again after the fireworks, some may have been hard to locate and at one site, the count was incomplete. 

Twenty years later, the 2021 report comprised a relatively small review of 85 pieces of texts and opinions, mainly of other firework displays, and most of the material was not from the peer-reviewed literature.  

The 2021 report discussed the major hazards of fireworks: noise, light and toxic particulates, but these were all claimed to be “unlikely” to have long-term impact since Manning Park fireworks were defined as a “minor” event as assessed by duration of the display. 

However, duration may be an inappropriate measure of harmful effects on fauna.  

For example, fear responses of animals (as recorded in many companion animals) often occur within the first moment of the explosions of light and noise, and are therefore not based on duration of event. 

Wild birds which flee are likely to do so within the first few seconds.  

As the fair is held in spring, young birds on the nest, which cannot flee, do not even have recourse to this.  

As is known from companion animals, prevention of fleeing can cause permanent phobia to loud noises. 

There are few studies of whether birds return to nests after fireworks disturbance but what there are, are all negative. 

All birds appear to be more sensitive in the breeding season and colony-breeding birds are more sensitive to disturbance in the breeding season than are other bird species.

The report cited claims that “fireworks are similar to thunderstorms”. 

Thunderstorms are a natural and predictable event and animals can detect changes in atmospheric pressure and prepare. 

Fireworks are unpredictable and unnatural and sudden multiple explosions of noise and light create distress and fear.  

Large scale ‘flight events’ are not recorded after storms, but high densities of birds taking flight during firework displays in the Netherlands have been recorded by weather radar.

The study reports that many of the metals used in fireworks have carcinogenic or toxic impacts on humans, flora and fauna but that the firework display makes it ‘unlikely’ to have a significant impact on 

the quality of the water or soil in Manning Park, and ‘unlikely’ to impact vegetation. 

We cannot agree with this assertion: perchlorate is common in fireworks and it is hazardous, highly mobile in water, lasts a long time in the environment and its presence in the soil, wetlands and plant life have never been tested or examined. 

The city is only looking to phase out fireworks contingent on whether there is “an economic alternative” or “groundswell of opposition”. 

There is, and has been for many years, a groundswell of objection that appears to be largely ignored.  

We contend that the two assessments of the Manning Park fireworks are seriously limited, and it is disappointing that these reports are shared and relied upon as valid ecological assessments.  

There needs to be an ecologically responsible alternative that is protective of, and more fitting to, a dense wildlife habitat that is home to hundreds of animals including vulnerable and endangered species.

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