Hunting lobby wins concessions over tahr cull

A young bull tahr and kid. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
A young bull tahr and kid. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The powerful hunting lobby has won concessions in the heated fight over the cull of thousands of Himalayan Tahr.

A meeting was held yesterday between Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and hunting groups including the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and the Game Animal Council as well as conservation groups such as Forest and Bird, and iwi Ngāi Tahu with the hunting industry emerging confident at the outcome.

The hunting fraternity say Ms Sage has pulled back from positions which the industry had found unacceptable and forced her to re-think plans to cull 10,000 Himalayan Tahr from the Southern Alps.

Former president of the Deerstalkers Association Bill O'Leary told RNZ that a draft operational plan was agreed on at the meeting which would reduce the number of tahr to be killed - but he did not give a number.

He said it was agreed that the original plan put out by the Department of Conservation (DOC) was not fit for purpose and needed modification, including the number of animals that would be culled.

"The agreement as such was not so much that they had to be reduced, which we all agree on, as by how many and where and who would do the job," Mr O'Leary said.

He also said there would be changes to the locations of the cull and a reduction in the numbers of males to be killed, which would preserve horned tahr for trophy hunters.

Mr O'Leary said the meeting was productive and attended by virtually everyone with an interest in tahr, with a set of general principles being agreed to.

Initially Ms Sage had proposed culling 10,000 tahr over the next eight months, but she said last night that DOC had taken on an adaptive management approach, and would cull 6000 over the next six weeks.

Ms Sage said this would be reviewed after the summer, but that DOC still had a commitment to cull 10,000 tahr by the end of July.

However Ms Sage told Morning Report the department is still finalising the plan and the 10,000 target is adaptable.

"That's the commitment that was made yesterday, that there would be a meeting after the summer hunting season, after DOC's control operation look at what the population estimates are, review that and then adapt the plans accordingly," she said.

She said this population estimate only looks at DOC land and there is likely to be thousands more tahr on private land.

All parties got something from the meeting, she said.

"Before there was opposition to any control being done, so that is a major step forward that all parties have actually agreed that DOC can go ahead with the control before we get another breeding increment this summer."

"The big win for me is that DOC can now proceed to actually get on with the control operation and it will be focusing on the exclusion zones for the North and South, for National Park, the harder to get to areas and the feeder areas into those exclusion zones."

She also said DOC would not be targeting bull tahr outside of national parks.

Ms Sage said there are an estimated 35,000 tahr on public conservation land and the original Himalayan Tahr Control Plan forged back in 1993 was to limit the numbers to 10,000.

The Himalayan Tahr is a kind of wild goat which is accused of destroying native vegetation.

But commercial and recreational hunters see it as a prized hunting trophy and said plans for the cull were based on inadequate knowledge of the species.

The hunters were prepared to go to court to fight the government and the Department of Conservation and raised $156,000 through Givealittle to pay for lawyers.

The hunters were also backed by the National Party which had started a petition against the cull.

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