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Thar statue at Aoraki/Mt Cook silly

Wednesday 24 August 2005 – Christchurch

Thar statue at Aoraki/Mt Cook as silly as a rabbit statue in Twizel

National’s criticism of DOC for not promoting thar in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park suggests that National is going soft on the need to control introduced pests such as thar in national parks, Forest and Bird says.

“Celebrating the introduction of thar with a statue inside the national park would be silly as having a monument to rabbits in the Mackenzie Basin, or commemorating the introduction of stoats and possums anywhere,” Forest and Bird regional field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

“It would convey the message that thar belong in the park when they are really a major threat to it.”

“New Zealand’s unique and special alpine plants are a distinctive feature of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Thar are voracious browsers and thar browsing is a serious threat to alpine plants, including the showy giant mountain buttercup, (Ranunculus lyalli), known as the Mt Cook lily, and rare plants such as the yellow mountain buttercup (Ranunculus godleyanus),” she said.

“Botanists have described the introduction of thar to the central Southern Alps as “an unmitigated disaster” for the vegetation there. Thar can eat patches of snow tussock down to ground level, denude shrubs on steep bluffs, and by congregating in groups pulverise the soil and cause erosion.”

Ms Sage said Dr Nick Smith’s criticisms of DOC suggested that National did not appreciate the damage thar caused.

“Dr Smith’s comments also show a worrying ignorance of national park management plans and policies.”

Ms Sage said DOC’s rejection of the thar statue was consistent with the Thar Control Plan, the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park management plan, and the recently approved General Policy for National Parks which all provide for eradication of thar in the national park.

“The Himalayan Thar Control Plan approved by former National Conservation Minister, Dennis Marshall in 1993 has a target density of “zero”for thar in the Aoraki/Mt Cook and the adjoining Leibig Range.

“The thar population in the central Southern Alps has increased to an estimated 11,000 animals. Recreational hunters have been unable to control thar adequately. DOC has had to do aerial thar control work in the national park to protect its special alpine plants. High thar numbers on adjacent pastoral lease land mean thar continually re-invade the park.”

Background

The Himalayan Thar Control Plan (1993) has a management goal of “control of thar population to lowest practicable level” with a target density of zero in Management Unit 4. This covers Mount Cook/Westland National Parks/Adjoining conservation land on the Leibig Range

Policy 4.1.5(b) of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park Management Plan approved in August 2004 is “To exterminate thar within, and actively control thar adjoining the Park.” The General Policy for National Parks recently approved by the New Zealand Conservation Authority in April 2005 provides:

“National park biosecurity and pest management should give priority to; …………… iii. eradicating, where practicable, and containing and reducing the range of established introduced plants and animals; and iv. controlling widespread introduced species where necessary to maintain the general welfare of national park indigenous species, habitats and ecosystems or to maintain scenic and landform values.”

New Zealand’s alpine plants evolved without any browsing mammals. Grazing pressures by thar and chamois have severe impacts on the vigour, abundance and distribution of tussock species and palatable plants such as mountain buttercups.

ENDS

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