Tahr Management

Tahr , officially Himalayan Tahr (Hermitragus jemlahicus) or the beardless Himalayan mountain goat were first introduced to New Zealand in 1905. All to do with the English being in India and Nepal and collecting animal species that ended up in the UK then filtered out into other parts of the Commonwealth.

NZ had the Southern Alps and in there wisdom the powers that be decided Tahr would “do rather well there”, they were correct, well right is a better word, correct is up for debate.

New Zealand has the most accessible and huntable pollution of Tahr in the world, you can on very limited permits,, hunt them in their native Nepal, not only is it limited but it is expensive.

As with all our introduced mammals Tahr are not without their draw backs, quite simply our environments evolved without undulating animals, we were a country of birds and bugs. Tahr thrived in there new home. Within 30 years of there introduction the numbers had increased significantly, dangerously some would argue. By the 1950s and 1960s Government cullers were employed to bring there number down, no science just solid subjectivity and plenty of bullets. By the 1970s with venison from red deer being commercially hunted from helicopter it wasn’t long before the deer number dropped enough that the commercial operators turned there attention to Tahr. Open mountainous terrain, skilled pilots, a receptive market and a sense of adventure were more than effective in reducing the Tahr number.So much so that by the mid 1980s a moratorium was placed on the commercial aerial hunting. Subjectively the numbers were estimated to be  2500-3000 animals!

As a recreational hunter learning my mountain hunting skills in the late 70s and early 80s in the pursuit of Tahr it was extremely thin pickings. Sure, we were novices but it was still several 3-5 day trips before we managed to find and kill our first Tahr. There simply were not very many  about, ,anywhere.

Now a trip into any of the places hunted then would result in 40-100 animals seen and to secure a trophy Bull takes 1-3 days, more often 1 than 3.

By 1993 the Himalayan Thar Control Plan (HTCP)was introduced, (note that the sp was Thar , it’s has been corrected now to Tahr). The Tahr Plan is unique in NZ as it is a statutory Control Plan for an introduced undulate, no other introduced game animal has such status.

With the HTCP the feral range was divided into 7 management units and has a Southern and Northern exclusion zone, the EZs are exactly that, no Tahr outline these lines on the map, that’s a whole story on its own.

So fast forward to 2018 and our Conservation Authorities directs the Department of Conservation (DOC)to address what appears to be a number of significant breaches to the HTCP, chief amongst them a Tahr population that far exceeds that set out in the HTCP, remember this is a statutory document and its states the the total population of Tahr within the feral range shall not exceed 10,000 animals. It is estimated that the current popln of Tahr on Public Conservation Lands( Land Controlled and Administered by DoC) could be 35000. This estimate does not include private land or leasehold land within the feral range.

DoC have a problem on there hands that they need to address, but to do so they must consult with the stakeholders as laid out in the HTCP, it is a statutory document. Needless to say with a lack of objective fact, and there is a serious lack of fact, the subjective is rife. After months of consultation, often heated and emotional, an operational plan was agreed apon by all stakeholders and DoC.

The “guts” of that plan is that 10,000 female and juvenile Tahr will be culled by DoC and the stakeholder groups( hunting community) by 30th August 2019. A new operational plan will then be established for 2019-2020, and 2020 and beyond with the aim to bring the total number of Tahr back to levels that meet biodiversity goals, conservation goals and maintain a recreational and commercial resource.

How hard can that be, trust me it’s very difficult. The numbers are a diversion, forget numbers, we have the tools ,the very same ones that lead to the collapse of the population in the 80s, helicopters and a market for the meat.

What’s different is that we have a huge tourist hunting industry build around Tahr hunting, massive recreational hunting interests, far more accessibility to the terrain the Tahr inhabitat and social media.

We also need to bridge the gap between the words management and control, review where possible significant parts of the 28 year old HTCP and most importantly find the balance between our biodiversity and our commercial and recreational users.

As a hunting guide It’s very important to my business and 150 or more  similar  businesses that we have a resource that meets our expectations and that of our clients. Our clients need an assurance that we have animals to hunt, they aren’t coming to take their guns for a walk in the mountains, they expect results.

Presently our public conservation lands are the target, will , can private and lease hold land fall under DoC control? Who can hunt where and when and  without conflicting other users. Lots of questions without answers still.

For now we have plenty of Tahr( we hunt private land) and I expect this to be the status quo for some time yet. Watch this space. Things are very much in the building stages still with an over reaching management plan for Tahr.