Explained: Why Himalayan tahr have got Kiwis all riled up

A recent clash over the Himalayan tahr has got Kiwis on both sides of the debate riled up. 

At its heart, the disagreement is over control of the majestic animal and is between the Department of Conservation (DoC) and hunters.

The Himalayan tahr was introduced to New Zealand more than a century ago for sport. But since then it has made itself at home in our national parks, developing a taste for native tussock.

It's estimated there are 35,000 of the animals running around the Southern Alps. But the Department of Conservation (DoC) says they can't have more than 10,000 because of the damage they cause to native plants. 

DoC also blames hunters for letting the population get out of control.

"If a hunter isn't able to maintain the population within these maximum levels then there is a role required by DoC," Crown council David Laurenson QC told the High Court this week.

Now DoC has announced it wants the numbers brought down and plans to kill 25,000 tahr. But that has left the Tahr Foundation fuming. They say DoC have their numbers wrong and they want the cull called off. 

"The reason why a lot of the hunting community is getting a little bit upset about the way this has gone about is because the tahr control plan was released close to midnight and then put in action a couple of days later with no consultation with any of the hunting or outdoor organisations, " tahr hunter Laura Douglas told The Project. 

Hunters are also at odds with DoC over how large the tahr population should be allowed to grow.

"The number that DoC has put out of 10,000 tahr back in the '90s, it feels like it was just plucked out of the air," said Douglas. 

"So I would like to see a lot more reporting done, I would like to see a lot more studies done on the effects that tahr are having actually on the environment. For the sake of having longer tussocks and only native species in the mountains that's not justification enough for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money to cull out such a majestic species like the tahr," said Douglas.

Pre-COVID, overseas trophy hunters paid big bucks to take the animals home and mount them over the fireplace, but with a lack of foreign tourists in the country at the moment that has all but stopped.

Meanwhile, the Tahr Foundation are planning a vehicle protest convoy on July 19 from the tahr statue at Lake Pukaki making their way 52km up the road to Aoraki/Mt Cook.