Skyrocketing tahr numbers destroying rare alpine plants
Forest & Bird says skyrocketing tahr numbers has clearly shown that hunting organisations are not able to adequately control the goat species' population.
The conservation organisation strongly supports the reduction in Himalayan tahr numbers to protect New Zealand’s sensitive native alpine ecosystems.
“In the last couple of decades recreational, safari, and commercial hunters have lobbied for the management of tahr numbers to be left mainly to their own efforts,” says Forest & Bird’s Regional Manager for Canterbury, Nicky Snoyink.
“Leaving the main management of tahr numbers in the hands of the hunting community has led to the out-of-control population increases. Instead of a population of 10,000 animals we now have a population of over 35,000 tahr on public conservation land and probably closer to 50,000 when non-conservation land is taken into account - five times the maximum population required by the Tahr Control Plan,” says Ms Snoyink.
The Himalayan Tahr Control Plan sets the total tahr population in the central South Island mountains at 10,000 animals (between the Rakaia and Haast Pass) and requires tahr populations to be actively managed to ensure they do not expand their range, particularly to the north and south.
Following a recent meeting of the Tahr Liaison Group, the Department of Conservation has proposed reducing the tahr population by around 17,000 animals this summer as a start to bringing the population down to the 10,000 goal. DOC will also focus on eradicating the tahr populations that have been expanding into the northern and southern exclusion zones.
Forest & Bird is very disappointed to learn that hunting organisations are opposing these proposals to protect New Zealand's fragile alpine environments.
“While the proposed plan gives hunting organisations a key role in achieving the necessary control, importantly it gives DOC the responsibility of making sure that the reduction targets are fully met,” says Ms Snoyink.
"Current levels of tahr control are not sufficient to maintain the status of tussock grasslands and iconic species such as the showy giant mountain buttercup, (Ranunculus lyalli), known as the Mt Cook lily, and rare plants such as the yellow mountain buttercup (Ranunculus godleyanus), let alone enable their recovery."
“While recreational hunting has a role in pest control, it is essential that we do not hand over conservation management to the hunters. Time after time we have learnt that recreational hunting is not up to the task of achieving the desired conservation goals.”
"Because of the past failures of recreational and commercial hunting we now need to reduce tahr numbers by 80 percent. If the hunting organisations were genuine in their claims that they want to look after the environment they would support DOC’s proposals rather than opposing them,' says Ms Snoyink.
Note: The Tahr Liaison Control Group is made up of organisations with hunting interests and conservation groups. Members include, NZ Deer Stalkers Association, Game Animal Council, Safari Club International, Professional Hunting Guides Association, Forest & Bird, Ngāi Tahu, LINZ, Wild Animal Recovery Operators, Federated Mountain Clubs, Aerial Assisted Trophy Hunting and tahr farmers.