Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Sorry Rudolph! Plans to remove Reindeer from the far south will now include "herding and corralling"

Following a wide consultation a decision was taken in early 2011 to eradicate the long-introduced Reindeer Rangifer tarandus from South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* in the South Atlantic.  These Reindeer have not been thoroughly surveyed for many years but are thought to number around three thousand in two geographically separated localities, known as the Barff and Busan herds.

Removal of the island's Reindeer is expected to help burrow-nesting and ACAP-listed White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis by allowing grazed vegetation and trampled areas to recover (click here).

White-chinned Petrels.  Photograph by Ben Phalan

Initially aerial and ground shooting were under consideration as methods for eradicating the introduced Reindeer.  However, a third option, herding and corralling, has now been added as a desirable method because it will allow animals to be killed humanely under veterinary supervision, the meat and any other products to be utilized, and also will allow for the disposal of carcasses.  Corralling has on many occasions successfully captured wild Reindeer in Norway.

Herding and corralling has been used previously on the island to capture small numbers of Reindeer for translocation to the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* with varying degrees of success.  The Busen herd was found easy to manage, but the Barff animals were more difficult to herd.  However, it is thought likely that these difficulties will be reduced through the use of experienced Reindeer herders.  Current estimates suggest that 90-95% of the population will be recoverable by herding so there will still be a requirement for some other form of management, either by shooting from the air or from the ground, to remove the last few animals.

Next month two Norwegian experts will visit the island to reconnoitre the areas occupied by Reindeer in order to assess the feasibility of herding and corralling as an eradication technique.  Through careful consideration of animal behaviour and terrain the feasibility of herding and corralling as a valid management method will then be definitively established.

Eradication of the introduced Reindeer from the two areas they inhabit on South Georgia (Islas Georgia del Sur)* is a prerequisite for eradicating the introduced Norway or Brown Rats Rattus norvegicus that are also present.  This is because the Reindeer would eat the rodent bait causing them to suffer or to die inhumanely.  In addition, poisoned bait would be become less available to the rodents; and any deer carcasses left after consumption of the bait would contain high concentrations of poison that would cause mortality amongst scavenging birds, such as ACAP-listed giant petrels Macronectes spp. and Subantarctic Skuas Catharacta antarctica.

More information is in the November 2011 Report on the Outputs of the Advisory Group on Reindeer Management Methodology.

Click here to access earlier stories in ACAP Latest News on the activities to date and future plans to eradicate rodents from South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 December 2011

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and of 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.