© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Hunters to play bigger part in tahr management

Travis Mitchell
DOC Himalayan Tahr
Himalayan tahr  Department of Conservation

DOC's new plan to manage Himalayan tahr lays the groundwork for hunters to play a bigger part in managing the animal in future years.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is putting its tahr control work in a popular hunting spot on hold for at least the next year, leaving the job to hunters.

DOC’s tahr Control Operational Plan for 2021/22 has been developed over five months of engagement with tahr stakeholders including hunting and conservation groups.

DOC wild animals manager James Holborow said the new plan provided an exciting opportunity to explore greater hunter involvement in tahr management within a popular hunting area.

“We have started discussions with the Tahr Plan Implementation Liaison Group (TPILG) on what hunter-led management would look like for the tahr population within the South Rakaia/Rangitata management unit."

Holborow said a survey undertaken in autumn 2021 will give detailed information on tahr numbers in the South Rakaia/Rangitata management units, including the gender balance of the local tahr population.

"The area is accessible by vehicle, has a range of huts available and is favoured by hunters for day hunts or longer trips. We look forward to seeing recreational and guided hunters play the major part in control efforts.”

The new tahr control operational Plan also outlines how DOC will continue to work with recreational and commercial hunters to control tahr on public conservation land in other areas of the South Island.

NZ Tahr Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley said the new plan was a step in the right direction as it indicated DOC had utilised the knowledge and expertise of the hunting sector.

Duley said the Tahr Foundation and other hunting organisations were trying to assist DOC target control work where it was needed most.

"We have been able to provide DOC with information and maps that set out where tahr numbers are low and no culling is required and also where we think tahr numbers still need reducing.”

The Himalayan Tahr Control Plan is acknowledged as being experimental and the population limits for tahr were set conservatively.

Duley said the Tahr Foundation agreed with DOC’s approach of ''learning as we go'' as it was consistent with modern wildlife management techniques.

“In order to learn something, you need to make pragmatic changes and then monitor the result. We will be pushing for changes to target levels in order to find the balance between quality habitat and tahr numbers.”

The population of tahr was estimated in 2019 to be about 35,000 in the feral range, and the original Himalayan Thar Control Programme 1993 suggested keeping the population down to 10,000 in that range.