Robben Island deer cull on cards
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Cape Town - Managers are in the early stages of planning another cull of Robben Island’s fallow deer whose numbers are escalating rapidly.
This has been confirmed by Sabelo Madlala, environmental manager of the Robben Island Museum that is responsible for the island. But he said the plan was still at a “very early stage” and the managers were meeting environmental institutions to get advice.
He also told the local SPCA they would continue to have access to the island.
This was in response to a request by the organisation’s wildlife unit supervisor, Brett Glasby, to be included in the preparation and monitoring of a new cull.
“We have worked well in the past with monitoring the various animal-related matters on Robben Island and would appreciate not being excluded at this stage,” Glasby had told him.
In 2009, about 220 fallow deer were culled by hunters because of the damage they were causing. But the following year the island managers allowed animal welfare group Four Paws to take a group of 52 deer from the island to a sanctuary in the Free State, and it was reported that there were then just 30 of these animals left on the island.
Madlala told the Cape Argus on Tuesday that the estimated deer population was now about 150.
“As part of the long-term planning and the site restoration programme, we would like to remove all the animals. Apart from the fact that they out-compete some of our indigenous antelopes, they are very destructive and the population size is far beyond the carrying capacity of the site,” he said.
Referring to the feral rabbits on the island, Madlala said the current population size was fewer than 200 animals.
At one stage, there were an estimated 25 000 rabbits and they were doing major environmental damage, but thousands were culled and some of the meat was processed and sold.
“We have recorded a major improvement (relating to rabbits) in the last few years. Our vegetation assessment studies are already showing some positive knock-on effects,” he said.
The culling of feral cats, which were having a severe negative impact by killing breeding seabirds, was continuing, Madlala added. He did not say how many cats were still thought to be on the island, but ornithologists say there are probably very few.
Madlala said the museum had always used the services of reputable nature conservation companies.
“Remember, as we cull these animals, we collect useful biological data – for example, fecundity, sex ratios, weights, stomach contents and so on – for planning purposes.”
The island’s current environmental management plan expired only in 2018, but had just been reviewed, he pointed out.
“The review process was consultative, and our plan is informed by the contributions of our stakeholders and environmental advisory organisations.” - Cape Argus