A plan for renewed tahr control operations breaches the National Parks Act, and does more for wealthy overseas heli-hunters than it does for protecting the environment, says Forest & Bird.
In the management unit which contains Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, mountain goat numbers are already 15 times higher than legally required population target.
The Department of Conservation has announced it will be resuming tahr control operations. But the Department plans to leave bull tahr behind and simply tell hunters where they are. This is a problem in areas where zero density required, such as Aoraki / Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks.
“We’ve got vast herds of tahr up there doing enormous damage to alpine plants,” says Forest & Bird lawyer Peter Anderson. “This is urgent. In National Parks, it's not lawful to leave behind large numbers of trophy animals which hunters may or may not kill.”
The 1993 Himalayan Tahr Control Plan sets the total allowed tahr population in the central South Island mountains at 10,000 animals. Work by the Department of Conservation this past summer gave increased confidence that the population is instead around 35,000.
Within Management Unit 4, which includes Aoraki / Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks as well as part of the Liebig Range, the allowed tahr population is set at 500 animals outside of the National Parks. Instead the current population in the management unit is estimated as 15 times larger, at 7,666 animals.
“Within those National Parks, to aim for anything less than zero density is actually illegal,” says Mr Anderson.
“The reason that we’re in this situation is the Department of Conservation abandoned tahr control, and the population ballooned.”
“Given that the animals are breeding, to get back down to a population of 10,000, we need to give it everything we’ve got.”
• Current tahr numbers on public conservation land are estimated at 34,292, with a 95% confidence interval of 24,777-47,461.
• Total tahr numbers nationwide are likely to much higher.
• Other media releases from Forest & Bird on this issue are available here and here.