One down, one to go. The Busen Reindeer herd has been removed from the South Atlantic

Completion of the first phase of the eradication of introduced Reindeer Rangifer tarandus from the Southern Ocean island of South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* has been announced (click here).

A male Reindeer on South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*

Phootgraph by Martin Collins

The first phase of the project saw the removal of over 1900 animals in January and February 2013 from the Busen Peninsula, one of two areas isolated by glaciers on the island that have been inhabited by Reindeer.

Norwegian whalers introduced Reindeer to the island in the early 1900s. Reindeer numbers increased after shore-based whaling ceased in the mid-1960s and they have had a devastating impact on the island’s vegetation, with knock-on effects on native bird species, including the ACAP-listed burrowing White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis.

Norwegian expertise, including from indigenous Sami herders and expert marksmen, has been utilized in their eradication. In central areas the Sami herded the Reindeer into a fenced corral where they were killed under veterinary supervision and their meat recovered to help cover eradication costs. In the outlying areas where herding was not considered feasible, animals were shot.

Reindeer round up with the derelict Husvik  whaling station in the background

Photograph by Samantha Crimmin

The corral fence, now removed.  Photograph by Alastair Wilson

Long-term monitoring programmes for plants, birds and invertebrates have been established to track the recovery of the island’s systems following the eradication. Within a few weeks from the removal of the Reindeer there were already signs of vegetation recovery.

The Norwegian marksmen made a start on the larger Barff Peninsula and shot over 1500 animals from remote locations. It is thought that over 1500 animals remain in the Barff area for removal in January and February 2014, along with handful of animals thought left behind on the Busen Peninsula.

Click here to access earlier news items on Reindeer on Southern Ocean islands.

Selected References:

Bell, C.M. & Dieterich, R.A. 2010. Translocation of Reindeer from South Georgia to the Falkland Islands. Rangifer 30: 1-9.

Christie, D. 2010. Reindeer on South Georgia, Literature Review and Discussion of Management Options. [Stanley]: Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. 104 pp.

Christie, D. 2011. Introduced reindeer on South Georgia - their impact and management. Aliens 31: 24-29.

Eira, H.I. & Kilander, C.E. 2012. Report from Reconnaissance January 1st - 31st 2012 regarding Eradication of Reindeer on South Georgia. Statens Natur Oppsyn Report 2012-1. Trondheim: Directorate for Nature Management. 41 pp.

Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands 2011. Report on the Outputs of the Advisory Group on Reindeer Management Methodology November 2011. [Stanley: Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands]. 88 pp.

Leader-Williams, N. 1988. Reindeer on South Georgia. The Ecology of an Introduced Population. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 319 pp.

Leader-Williams, N., Walton, D.W.H. & Prince, P.A. 1989. Introduced Reindeer on South Georgia: a management dilemma. Biological Conservation 47: 1-11.

Moen, J. & MacAlister, H. 1994. Continued range expansion of introduced Reindeer on South Georgia. Polar Biology 14: 459-462.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 April 2013

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

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