DOC’s Director-General Lou Sanson said an anonymous tip off about the deer prompted immediate action and DOC is working to track down the deer and keep the region deer free. DOC hunters have so far destroyed five of the illegally released deer.
“The illegal release is the action of selfish and short-sighted individuals working against the aspirations of many thousands of people in local communities, including Taranaki, to keep our forests intact and return them to their rightful inhabitants. This is not about hunting, it’s about sabotaging community conservation projects that are working towards Predator Free 2050. I’m disgusted by this behaviour.
“Releasing these deer also seriously jeopardises our farming industries by increasing the risk of spreading TB. Valuable resources are now being diverted from important conservation work that would benefit Taranaki,” says Mr Sanson.
DOC’s Battle for our Birds programme involves a range of pest control methods on conservation land throughout New Zealand and the success of the programme at protecting species and habitats over the years has proven to be outstanding.
This includes the Taranaki region where recent successful operations have been conducted at Waitaanga and Parininihi/Whitecliffs, which has enabled the reintroduction of kōkako after an absence of 20 years. In contrast, areas not controlled for pests have shown declines in productivity.
While DOC operations primarily target possums, rats and stoats, it is also DOC’s policy to prevent new incursions of feral deer into areas like Taranaki. Wild deer are a serious pest on public conservation lands in other parts of Taranaki, providing an ongoing threat to the structure of native forests and grassland ecosystems.
The incident is being investigated by New Zealand Police and the culprits will face the full force of the law under the provisions of the Wild Animal Control Act.
As if the illegal deer release in Taranaki was not enough, a DOC staff member’s private vehicle had the back window deliberately broken last Thursday. This staff member is not even involved in pest control operations and is a valued and respected member of the local community. This incident occurs not long after the wheel nut loosening incidents on DOC vehicles in a number of locations recently.
“Some people opposed to 1080 operations have been voicing their displeasure, as is their right,” says Mr Sanson.
“Lawful protest is fine but potentially putting people’s lives at risk with irrational behaviour has to stop before someone is hurt.”
“I urge anyone with knowledge of the illegal sika release or the window breaking, to contact the Department of Conservation or New Zealand Police,” says Mr Sanson.