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Native Species To Benefit As Tahr Control Starts

Himalayan tahr control is underway in the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, as the Department of Conservation (DOC) moves to protect native plants and wildlife habitats vulnerable to tahr impacts.

Last week’s High Court decision allowed DOC to start half of its tahr control programme, while the Department consults with hunting, conservation and statutory stakeholders comprising the Tahr Plan Implementation Liaison Group (TPILG).

DOC intends to undertake 60 hours of aerial control in the national parks, and another 65 hours in other areas of the conservation estate inside the tahr feral range. The final level of control in 2020/2021 will be subject to further consultation.

Control operations began on Thursday 16 July to protect Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks, the only two locations across more than 706,000 ha of the tahr management units where DOC will target all tahr. Control in other areas will commence shortly.

Operations Director Dr Ben Reddiex says thousands of bull tahr and other tahr will be left for trophy hunters across 425,000ha of public conservation land, but in the 148,000ha national parks, New Zealand’s native species need to come first.

“National parks have the greatest protection status of all conservation land and we need to protect and preserve them for New Zealanders.

“High localised densities of tahr can damage alpine habitats by transforming tall tussocks and subalpine shrublands to a grassy turf or bare ground.

“This work is urgent. Not only are we working around alpine winter weather conditions, but in just a few months a new generation of tahr will be born, putting further pressure on the environment.”

DOC’s planned control work will have a minimal effect on the commercial hunting industry, which mostly operates outside of the national parks. The vast majority of commercial hunting takes place on Crown pastoral lease and private land.

“Outside of the national parks we’re only controlling high localised densities of female and juvenile tahr, leaving tahr in more accessible areas for hunters, and leaving all bulls for trophy hunting.”

The results of control operations will be proactively published on the DOC website. All bulls sighted by the Department staff outside of the national parks will be recorded to help trophy hunters plan their future hunts.

DOC is now commencing the consultation process with stakeholders regarding the content of the Tahr Control Operational Plan for 2020/2021.

“It’s important to remember we have absolutely no plans to eradicate tahr, this important control work is about protecting vulnerable native species as well as meeting our legal obligations in the national parks,” says Dr Ben Reddiex.

Background information:

Tahr Control Operations:

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/hunting/what-to-hunt/tahr/tahr-control-operations/

  • The Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993 is a statutory document made under section 5(1)(d) of the Wild Animal Control Act 1977.
  • DOC’s annual Operational Plan identifies how it will implement the statutory Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993 (HTCP), which sets a maximum population of 10,000 tahr across 706,000 ha of private land, Crown pastoral leases and public conservation land.
  • In Autumn 2019, the tahr population was estimated to be approximately 34,500 tahr on public conservation land alone. DOC, commercial hunters and contractors controlled approximately 11,000 tahr between July to November last year. There has since been another breeding season.

Previous media release about the High Court decision: https://www.doc.govt.nz/news/media-releases/2020-media-releases/himalayan-tahr-control-to-protect-national-parks/

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