Tahr control needed to protect alpine habitats and prevent further population explosion

A cull of introduced Himalayan tahr browsing conservation land in Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana/ the Southern Alps is needed to protect special alpine plants and their habitats, Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage said.

“I have asked the Department of Conservation (DOC) to step up efforts to control Himalayan tahr on public conservation land in the central Southern Alps.

“Tahr numbers have reached damaging levels with an estimated population of 35,000 animals on public conservation land. That is more than three times the number of animals permitted by the long established Himalayan Tahr Control Plan,” Eugenie Sage said.

“Heavy browsing and trampling by mobs of tahr damages, and can potentially wipe out the native plants they feed on, including tall tussocks and iconic species like the Aoraki/Mt Cook buttercup. On thin mountain soils it also increases soil erosion risks.

“New Zealand cannot afford to lose threatened native plants unique to our alpine areas. We need to work together to bring the population back down to a sustainable level.

“I am in discussion with some leaders of the hunting sector and will be re-engaging with them soon to discuss various concerns and gain a common understanding of the data.  I also want to address some of the misinformation that’s been circulated. To be very clear there is no plan to eradicate tahr.

“DOC will aim to remove 10,000 tahr over the next eight months to help prevent the current population increasing further. I intend to discuss with the hunting, commercial wild animal recovery operators and other members of the Tahr Liaison Group what a suitable target would be for these groups.” Eugenie Sage said.

“Even after this control work is done, there will still be ample tahr to sustain guided tahr hunting and tourist ventures,” Eugenie Sage said.

“The control work needs to happen urgently. There’s a real risk the total population will explode further with another summer breeding season unless control work is done now.”

Note to media:

Tahr graze at high altitudes in the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana where they feed most intensively on tall snow tussock and can kill entire plants.

Tahr control will initially focus on the Rakaia and Rangitata catchments as well as the Gammack and Two Thumb ranges where there are large numbers of tahr.  Tahr control will also be done in Westland/Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks and other conservation land.