Robben Island Museum (RIM) will be conducting a cull of fallow deer on the Island from June 2017 to March 2018. The culling project is aimed at reducing the number of deer, in line with the carrying capacity of the Island as a habitat. The reduction of the population fallow deer will have a positive impact on the condition and health of the remaining animals on the island, as well as ensuring the restoration of endemic vegetation to a point where it will become self-sustaining.
Fallow deer are not indigenous to the Island; they were introduced to the Island in 1963. Initially there were only three. Fourteen years later they had multiplied to 40 animals.
In the past, culling was rarely necessary, because residents hunted the deer for meat and thereby maintained optimal numbers. However, hunting practices were halted in 1990 when the Island was declared a museum. The deer population increased throughout the mid-2000s to over 300 animals.
RIM undertook a similar culling exercise between 2009 and 2010 to ensure that the population is maintained. “We are always sad to see some of our animals go; however numbers have escalated to unsustainable levels, destroying vegetation and also out-competing indigenous antelope species on the Island” said Ms. Bongiwe Nzeku, Marketing and Tourism Manager of Robben Island Museum.
To ensure that the project is humanely and ethically conducted in terms of all existing culling protocols, RIM has engaged the services of an experienced and competent hunter to direct this culling project. Daily RIM tourism operations will not be disturbed as this an overnight exercise.
“We have engaged with various stakeholders that include the Cape of Good Hope Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and Cape Nature to ensure that the project is completed as humanely as possible,” said Nzeku. Cape Nature has issued a permit to authorize RIM to implement this culling project.
The meat harvested during the cull will be used for human consumption and the pelts of the deer are to be used as raw materials in an upcoming craft project conducted on the Island.
“We treasure all of the island’s natural resources and protecting them is our greatest priority. We look forward to them thriving once more,” said Nzeku.