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Ban On Feral Deer Recovery A Threat To Forests

April 19, 2002

Conservationists are concerned that a ban on feral deer exports will be disastrous for New Zealand's biodiversity including alpine flowers, native forest regeneration and native birds. Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton has called for a report on whether to ban feral deer exports in response to concerns about feral deer recovery.

"Trade Minister Jim Sutton estimates that around 1000 tonnes of meat from feral animals was exported in the year to June last year. That equates to around 20,000 animals that are no longer eating our precious native forests," said Forest and Bird President Dr. Gerry McSweeney.

"Deer are a significant forest pest as they prevent regeneration of forests by eating the seedlings and smaller trees. Landcare Research scientists have studied the impacts of deer on native forests in the Pureora Conservation Park. They found that few seedlings of plant species preferred by deer, such as broadleaf, ever reach more than 5 cm in height," Dr McSweeney said.

"Feral deer recovery is an important part of New Zealand's pest control programmes. Commercial hunters can take feral deer without cost to the taxpayer. Without feral deer recovery, the New Zealand taxpayer will have to pay more for pest control if forests are to be protected," he said.

"One argument for the ban is that it will stop poaching of deer from private land. Forest and Bird and hunters know that feral deer on private land remain Crown owned and do not belong to the private landowner. Besides, one third of New Zealand is conservation land and is open to commercial hunting."

"It has been suggested that TB infected feral deer may contaminate the production system. This risk applies equally to farmed deer and other animals. Preventative measures include the requirement that all important deer organs are inspected at meatworks to confirm that they are TB free prior to processing," he said.

"Forest and Bird is very concerned that commercial game operators will have mortgages on their helicopters and this decision places their businesses at risk. It would be a tragedy if a departmental whim destroyed the livelihood of so many people who make an important contribution to protecting New Zealand's nature heritage," he said.

"Forest and Bird admires the pragmatic approach Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton has taken to feral deer in the past. We urge him not implement a ban and to encourage any meat processors that have suspended processing of feral deer venison to reverse their decision to maintain the export market and help save our indigenous ecosystems," he said.

ENDS

Notes: Research has shown that unless deer are controlled to very low numbers, then regeneration of forests is impeded. Forest and Bird can provide background information on the effects of deer if required.

The NZ Game Industry Board provided the figure of 20,000 animals

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