Flesh-eating seagulls to be shot by police

Ceri Roberts

PA


Whale watchers off the coast of Patagonia have been horrified by the sight of seagulls attacking endangered Southern Right whales.

Now Argentinian officials have come up with a way to stop the attacks - the birds are to be shot by police in patrol boats.

Sky News reports that the gulls have started to tear skin and blubber from the backs of whales whenever they come up for air. Their beaks and claws can cause nasty open wounds, which is affecting the behaviour of the whales and also scaring away tourists.

The whales gather off the coast of the Patagonian cit of Puerto Madryn because it is one their prime breeding grounds. However, experts say that they are becoming wary of the bird attacks. Instead of rising up from the water and displaying their tails, they now rise just enough to breathe through their blow holes before descending back into the sea.

Marcelo Bertellotti of the National Patagonia Centre told Sky News: "It's not just that the gulls are attacking the whales, but that they're feeding from them, and this way of feeding is a habit that is growing and becoming more frequent.

"It really worries us because the damage they're doing to the whales is multiplying, especially to infant whales that are born in these waters."

According to Fox News, police riding on motorboats will selectively fire at the seagulls that attack the whales. It's not clear what kind of ammunition they will use, but it's possible they may use rubber bullets.

However environmentalists are critical of the plans as they believes that humans are responsible for the rising seagull population.

They say that it would be more helpful to stop fishermen from dumping scraps which the gulls feed on, and argue that closing a nearby rubbish dump would also help to control the seagull population.

Click on the image below to see some endangered places around the world...

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