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Forest And Bird Supports Measures To Limit Thar

September 4, 2002 - Dunedin

Forest And Bird Supports Measures To Limit Thar

Farming Himalayan thar outside their feral range increases the risk that these voracious alpine plant consumers will escape and spread into new areas, says the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

The Wild Animal Control Act makes it illegal to farm thar outside their feral range. The Department of Conservation is now trying to enforce this legislation, and have asked the owners of a thar hunting safari on Bendigo Station in Central Otago to remove their thar. However Game and Forest Foundation, Act MP Gerry Eckhoff and the owners of Bendigo have called on the Government to amend this legislation (ODT 2.9.02, 3.9.02).

Sue Maturin, Forest and Bird's Southern Conservation Officer said she believes that promoters of safari hunting businesses and the Game and Forest Foundation are using the Bendigo issue to put pressure on the Government to free up thar farming.

A few weeks ago Bendigo Station was willing to respect the law and planned to kill off all the Bendigo thar. They placed an add in the Otago Daily Times calling for hunters to come and obtain game meat.

"Now they are trying to save the thar so they can charge higher prices and kill them later. In doing so these people are putting Otago's unique indigenous alpine plants at risk."

"Himalayan thar are an introduced pest. The browsing and trampling of these large goat like animals has been a disaster for the alpine and sub-alpine plants of the central Southern Alps." Sue Maturin said.

"There is always a risk no matter how well farmed thar are, of accidental escapes with fences breaking due to floods or slips or snow overtopping fences."

Thar may not always be more valuable inside than outside the fence, as our experience with goat farming has proven. Once the bottom fell out of goat farming many farmers became lax, and their goats escaped and became a widespread nuisance. In Otago there are at least two new populations of thar that have been let go outside their feral range. The Department of Conservation has had to divert its scarce resources to try to eliminate them and prevent them from spreading.

Thar are through out the central Southern Alps, but they only just reach into the Otago land district around Haast Pass and up in the Dingleburn. Bendigo is in the heart of Central Otago and any releases from here could be an ecological disaster for Central Otago's high country native plants. It is not acceptable to deliberately increase the possibility of thar spreading by allowing them to be farmed in areas outside of their current range. Sue Maturin said.

Kind regards Hayley Meehan


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