Positive step towards Himalayan tahr control

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said yesterday’s constructive meeting of the Himalayan Tahr Liaison Group made good progress in helping the Department of Conservation (DOC) finalise the most effective ways of stepping up control of Himalayan tahr to protect the mountainlands and alpine habitats of the central Southern Alps.

The longstanding Himalayan Tahr Control Plan sets an upper limit of 10,000 animals. DOC monitoring has estimated the Himalayan tahr population on public conservation land alone (not including Crown pastoral leases and private land) as totalling more than 35,000 animals.   

“There was widespread recognition that Himalayan tahr numbers are too high and need to come down. The meeting was an opportunity for further feedback from stakeholders and Ngāi Tahu on the most effective means of doing this – how, when and where this control work should occur. The department will take these views into account when finalising its operational plan for control,” Eugenie Sage said.

“There was general support for taking an adaptive management approach to controlling Himalayan tahr. This involves the department seeking to reduce the Himalayan tahr population by 6,000 animals through immediate control work in October and early November and then reviewing progress with input from the Tahr Liaison Group.

“DOC expects to remove 10,000 animals by August 2019. It will prioritise national parks, the South West World Heritage Area, the northern and southern ‘exclusion zones’ and adjacent feeder valleys, and more difficult to access country for its control work.

“Wild animal recovery operators, recreational hunters and guided tourist hunters can also contribute to control and are likely to be active over the summer months. The department will undertake further monitoring of the Himalayan tahr population and vegetation condition over the summer; and this information  and the effectiveness of the initial control operation will be reviewed in early 2019.  Priorities for further control, and how and where this will occur in 2019 will be discussed further with the Tahr Liaison Group.

“The meeting was a constructive one with everyone listening and contributing. The department will finalise its operational plan for Himalayan tahr control, taking account of the views expressed.  Hunting organisations want DOC to avoid targeting Himalayan bull tahr while the Aoraki Conservation Board and Forest and Bird want to see measurable progress in bringing tahr numbers down and back within the limit of 10,000 animals in the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan,” Eugenie Sage said.

“I want to make it clear, no one will be eradicating the tahr population on public conservation land. DOC will regularly monitor the population to make sure the control work is having the desired effect.”