Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) and the Game Animal Council have released findings from a research programme to assess tahr survivorship through the Perth River predator removal operation in the 12,000 ha Perth River valley in South Westland.
The project is the first large-scale trial of a technique for completely removing possums from large areas of rugged back-country. The technique has two phases, each of which comprises aerial applications of non-toxic “prefeed” bait and one of toxic bait containing 1080.
Before the operation began, Game Animal Council personnel fitted 21 tahr with radio transmitter collars. Results showed that tahr survival was extremely high - none of the monitored tahr died as a result of the operation.
Himalayan tahr, similar in appearance to large goats, typically graze at high altitudes in the alpine grasslands and subalpine shrublands that cover around 1.7 million hectares of the Southern Alps from the headwaters of Canterbury's Rakaia River to the Young Range of Otago.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) estimates that Himalayan tahr population on public conservation land was approximately 35,000 animals in autumn 2018. As Himalayan tahr are an introduced species and have no native predators in New Zealand, their population is controlled by DOC and hunters.
“Tahr in the Southern Alps are a highly-valued game animal species and a world-renowned hunting resource, which is why the Game Animal Council was pleased to work with ZIP and contribute to this project,” said Game Animal Council General Manager Tim Gale.
“We are excited about this research; it is vitally important that we fully understand the impact of predator control operations on game animal species.”
“Hunters have questioned the effect of 1080 on tahr, both for the impacts on their hunting resource and because of potential kea by-kill. This study provides scientific evidence of high tahr survivorship, allaying those concerns.”
ZIP Innovation Director Phil Bell said, “ZIP really appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with the hunting community, and in particular with the Game Animal Council, on this project. The results speak for themselves. Hunters can now feel confident that tahr are not at risk from 1080.”
Read edition 976 of the Wānaka Sun here.