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Move to stop cull of around 20,000 South Island tahr gaining support

A battle over an impending cull of South Island tahr could soon head to court, with hundreds throwing their support behind a legal challenge.

A crowdfunding campaign by the New Zealand Tahr foundation has raised more than $75,000 in just a few days.

They're aiming to stop a plan set out to cull 17,500 tahr focusing around Rakaia-Rangitata and Gammack-Two Thumbs, on top of the 3,000 already killed. They also plan to reduce two other areas to 'zero density’ which could mean a further 5,000.

Conservation minister Eugenie Sage says the cull is vital to reduce the population which is estimated to be around 35,000.

"The population of tahr is estimated to be at over three times the level allowed by the control plan. That's having a major impact on our special alpine plants," she said

"80 per cent of our plants are only found here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Tahr browsing and trampling can destroy snow tussocks and can have a major effect on them."

But Greg Dulaney, a hunting representative from the NZ Tahr Foundation, says the minister hasn't consulted with them properly, and more work needs to be done to determine the exact number of the population.

"The ministers own science has this huge margin for error, and they say it can be anywhere between 17,000 and 50,000, so we've got this middle number," he said.

"When you come up with this proposal which if they have their way is 25,000 plus animals, and the population is somewhere in that spectrum, this is essentially eradication by another name."

The Department of Conservation is hoping to have completed a cull of at least 10,000 by mid-November, but opponents are expected to seek a court injunction to stop the process before then.

Officials say tahr numbers have to be limited to protect the landscape. Source: 1 NEWS