Reports of DOC and Minister Eugenie Sage turning their killing programme from tahr to deer suggests the extermination edict is paramount in government polices says a hunting and environmental advocacy.
Laurie Collins spokesman for the Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust, has backed the call by NZ Deerstalkers Association CEO Gwyn Thurlow who said a “science backed” approach is needed in managing wild big game herds.
“Unfortunately Minister Sage and DOC have worked on false ideological grounds rather than science and evolution history,” said Laurie Collins.
Over decades the Forest and Bird Society and the Department of Conservation have claimed New Zealand’s vegetation evolved under no mammalian browsing. However critics have said “mammalian browsing” obscures the reality of millions of years of strong avian browsing, i.e. birds.
Conservation Minister Sage had complained deer “are now eating plant species that were previously numerous.”
But Laurie Collins said he minister was either ignorant or deliberately ignoring ecological history.
“NZ’s vegetation evolved over millions of years under robust browsing pressure from vegetarian birds such as moa, takahe, pigeon (kereru), kakapo and others. Eminent ecologist the late Dr Graeme Caughley estimated several million moa existed in various sub-species that ranged from alpine tops to lowlands. NZ’s vegetation is strongly adapted to browsing,” he said.
The composition of plant species was undoubtedly different in “Moa times” from when the first European settlers came to New Zealand. Palatable species diminish, unpalatable species naturally increase in numbers under browsing whether it be moas and other vegetarian birds or other browsers such as deer and possums.
Credible Science Needed
Hunters want credible “science-based” management not killing based on ideology such as “an anti-introduced wild animal phobia” that Dr William Graf observed of departments in the late 1950s upon visiting NZ to investigate the “deer problem” he said.
The question begging was would Sage have tried to exterminate moa because palatable plant species decreased under the browsing.
© Ecologist the late Dr Graeme Caughley estimated there were six million moa (several sub-species) in NZ browsing the forest, snowgrass and lowland plains.