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Comparing erosion and organ accumulation rates of lead and alternative lead-free ammunition fed to captive domestic ducks

  • Oliver KroneEmail author
  • Norbert Kenntner
  • Nicole Ebner
  • Claudia A. Szentiks
  • Sven Dänicke
Lead Use in Hunting


Lead poisoning of birds of prey from ingestion of ammunition lead has been well documented. Alternative, lead-free ammunition is widely available, but the toxicokinetics of other metals in birds are poorly understood. We tested the erosion of lead, copper, zinc, iron and brass by feeding domestic Pekin ducks (Anas platyrhynchos forma domestica) defined numbers of small metal pellets. The accumulation of these metals was analysed in the breast muscle, brain, pancreas, liver and kidney. Four weeks after application, the ducks were euthanized and necropsied, internal organs tested for metal accumulation and gizzard pellets collected and weighed to record loss by erosion. Degree of erosion was highest in zinc pellets (81% mass loss), followed by iron (46%) and lead (45%) and was only marginal in copper and brass. Only lead showed highly elevated levels of accumulation in organs compared to controls.


Brass Bullet Copper Hunting ammunition Iron Lead Lead poisoning Pellet Zinc 



We are grateful to Anna Trinogga and Vivien Hoffmann for helping us performing radiographs of the ducks, to Zoltan Mezö, Felix Lackmann and Kirsi Blank for supporting us during the necropsy of the birds and Marion Biering for technical support in the histo-pathological laboratory. We would like to express our gratitude to Karsten Knop and co-workers for taking care of the ducks during the experiment. The project (FKZ 0330720A) was partly funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). Finally, we like to thank Bård-Jørgen Bårdsen and Liam Bailey for re-computing the box-plot graphs. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers and the guest editor who helped to improve the quality of the manuscript.

Research involving animal rights

The trail of studying the erosion, accumulation and toxicity of the different metals and alloys used as material for hunting ammunition in captive ducks under controlled conditions has been approved by the responsible state agency: Lower-Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety under the registration number 33.11.42502-04-084/07.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife DiseasesLeibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Animal Nutrition (ITE)BraunschweigGermany

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