Antarctic reindeer face cull

2013-01-09 20:41

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Oslo - About 3 000 reindeer on an island near Antarctica are to be slaughtered to stop damage to the environment by the descendants of a tiny herd introduced a century ago for food by Norwegian whale hunters.

A 16-strong team, mostly Sami reindeer herders, has arrived in South Georgia, a British overseas territory, and is preparing to round up and cull all the reindeer on an island that is home to penguins and seals and has no native grazing animals.

"The reindeer have become very destructive," Reidar Andersen, director of the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate which oversees the team, told Reuters. Reindeer naturally live only in the Arctic or sub-Arctic regions at the other end of the globe.

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

The team was working this week to set up fences and a corral for the reindeer, based on Sami traditions, Andersen said.

Most reindeer will be slaughtered with a bolt gun shot to the head. Some in remote areas, or those near penguins where stampeding reindeer could trample birds, will be shot by rifles. The project is likely to last for two southern hemisphere summers.

The reindeer are part of a global problem of invasive species - animals or plants that take over new habitats, like European rabbits in Australia or Asian carp in US rivers. Invasive pests can spread disease and undermine food production.

One estimate a decade ago of the global damage caused by invasive species was $1.4 trillion a year, said Geoffrey Howard, global invasive species coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"It's almost impossible to know the cost," he told Reuters by phone from Nairobi. "How do you work out how much a badger is worth, or the value of an elephant?" The IUCN groups governments, scientists and environmental organisations.

Plan backfired

In South Georgia, reindeer were introduced in the early 20th century by Norwegian whalers who wanted to use them as food.

"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," whaler CA Larsen wrote in 1911 of the introduction of the first 10 reindeer from south Norway.

But the plan has backfired.

The cull "is the kind of action that's needed from time to time to correct previous mistakes", said Arild Skedsmo of the WWF conservation group. He also said Norway should act to get rid of its king crabs, introduced to the country from the Pacific, and sitka spruce trees brought from North America.

Eradicating reindeer is a prelude to a harder battle to rid South Georgia of rats, brought 200 years ago as stowaways on seal hunters' ships. The French islands of Kerguelen near Antarctica also have big herds of reindeer, originally Swedish.

Andersen said the reindeer meat would be transported to the Falkland Islands, which has a population of about 3 000. The hope is it will be sold to locals and to visiting cruise ships.

Read more on:    wwf  |  iucn  |  environment  |  conservation

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Nkandla: Zuma 'still looking for undue benefit'

President Jacob Zuma has told supporters at an election rally in Mpumalanga that he had not wrongfully benefited from the upgrade to his Nkandla home.


Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
  • Tuesday Century City - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Ratanga Road Southbound
    ROADWORKS - lane closure between Ocean Spirit Avenue and Century Boulevard (until mid April)
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Spine Road
    ROAD CLOSED between Weltevreden Drive and Seafarer Drive due to roadworks (until mid April)
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9790

Bold Design The BlackBerry Bold 9790 smartphone combines the iconic BlackBerry...

From R2979.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be more sensitive today and can be influenced easily by the energies around you. Try not to be swayed too much by more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.