The pelican slaughter of 1911

a history of competing values, killing and private property from the Coorong, South Australia

Emily O'Gorman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


In 1911, approximately 2000 pelicans were slaughtered on a group of islands within the Coorong lagoon in South Australia. The islands were a favoured nesting site, and a group of people had waited until the eggs hatched to kill both adult and young birds in order to collect the maximum payout from a 1 penny bounty that had been put on the head of each pelican by the South Australian Fisheries Department. The killings prompted advocates of bird protection, particularly ornithologists, to seek security for the rookeries against future raids by leasing the islands. A range of other interests became entangled in this decision, as some ornithologists also sought to prevent local Aboriginal people from harvesting bird eggs in the area. Examining these events and their consequences, this article has two related goals. The first goal is to show the role of animals and their environments in co-shaping legal geographies. The second is to examine the contours and histories of competing ideas about protection, killing, and private property that shaped the legal geography of the Coorong.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-300
Number of pages16
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

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