UK & World News

  • 9 January 2013, 22:19

Reindeer Cull: 3,000 Animals To Be Shot Dead

A 16-strong team is preparing to shoot dead 3,000 reindeer in a mass slaughter on a small Antarctic island.

A tiny herd of reindeer was introduced to the British territory of South Georgia for food by Norwegian whale hunters a century ago.

Since then the numbers on the island have exploded and the animals are causing significant damage to the environment and threatening the native king penguins.

The team of mainly Sami reindeer herders is now preparing for the cull and has set up fences and a corral for the reindeer.

Most of the animals will be slaughtered with a bolt gunshot to the head. However, those in remote areas, or those near penguins where stampeding reindeer could trample birds, will be shot by rifles.

Reidar Andersen, director of the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate which oversees the team, said: "The reindeer have become very destructive."

Mr Andersen said the reindeer meat would be transported to the Falkland Islands. The hope is it will be sold to locals and to visiting cruise ships.

The animals have trampled native plants, caused erosion and are posing a threat to South Georgia's king penguins and local birds such as the pipit and pintail by destroying their nests.

The project to cull the animals is likely to take two summers.

Ten reindeer were originally brought to the island in 1911.

The Norwegian whaler C A Larsen wrote of their introduction, saying: "I feel sure they will thrive and become prolific in time, if they are left alone, which would most assuredly be an asset to South Georgia."

The reindeer are part of a global problem with invasive species - non-native animals or plants that take over new habitats - estimated to cost $1.4 trillion (875 billion)a year.

Arild Skedsmo, of the WWF conservation group, said that the cull "is the kind of action that's needed from time to time to correct previous mistakes".

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