R.I.P. tahrs of Table Mountain
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:
CAPE TOWN–The last 138 of the Himalayan tahr who inhabited
Table Mountain National Park, overlooking Cape Town, “have been
exterminated by South African National Parks,” Cape Town Adopt-A-Pet
founder Cicely Blumberg e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE on October 26,
“Park manager Brett Myrdal said that the tahr killing is all
over,” Blumberg added, “because the rangers cannot find any more.
The fact that a funded capture and relocation package was presented
to SANParks in March 2004, to which they agreed in an e-mail to the
Marchig Animal Welfare Trust on March 18, is never mentioned,”
Blumberg continued. “Instead they say that no proposal was ever
“The big story now,” Blumberg said, “is that SANParks have
released klipspringer antelope into the park. They said that the
tahr had to be removed before the klipspringer could be
reintroduced.” Nine klipspringer were released on October 27, with
18 more to follow, along with nine grey rhebuck, also native to
Table Mountain but long ago poached out.
Klipspringer and tahr shared Table Mountain from 1935, when
a pair of tahr escaped on their first day at the long defunct Groot
Schnur Zoo, until 1972, when mapmakers Peter Slingsby and Marybelle
Donald made the last confirmed sightings. In 1972 the park
management made their first effort to kill the tahr, native to
India, to remove competition with the klipspringer–but it was the
klipspringer who were never seen again.
“It is with deep sorrow that I learn that the tahrs have been
shot,” said Maneka Gandhi, founder of the Indian national
organization People for Animals and a member of the Indian
parliament. “I cannot understand why, since India was willing to
take them and a formal offer was made three years ago. Killing,
‘culling’ to give it scientific cover, was not necessary. For a
species so rare that it is almost extinct to be killed makes no
sense. Now I am told that elephants will be culled,” at Kruger
National Park, on the far side of South Africa, “and then perhaps
SANParks will target something else.”
“It is very likely that the fallow and sambar deer will be
next,” opined Blumberg, mentioning two other non-native species on
Table Mountain–but feral peacocks at the neighboring Steenberg Golf
Estate were actually next in the gunsights.
Beloved by some residents, the peacocks– India’s national
bird–are hated by others for their cries.
“These birds are a threat to indigenous bird life,” claimed
Steenberg Homeowners Association President Harry White. “We are
situated next to Table Mountain, and have to take a certain
Olive farmer Trevor Brodricks volunteered to take the
peacocks to his land in the Breede River Valley. That just left the
problem of capturing them.
SANParks chief David Mabunda, who authorized the final tahr
massacre, on October 19 convened an “indaba,” or consultation
meeting, to discuss lifting the 1995 moratorium on culling elephants
at Kruger. SANParks contends that the 12,000 elephants now
inhabiting Kruger are destroying the habitat.
The “indaba” was seen by many animal advocates as a public
relations gesture preliminary to culling, and culling as chiefly a
way to increase the SANParks ivory stock, looking toward the
possibility of winning permission from the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species to sell ivory to Japan.
Mapmaker Slingsby endorsed the reintroduction of klipspringer
and rhebuck to Table Mountain, and asked that baboons be
reintroduced as well.
Kalahari Raptor Centre co-director Chris Mercer recalled what
happened the last time baboons were reintroduced somewhere.
“Near Vredefort in the North West Province,” Mercer wrote,
“local farmers formed the Vredefort Dome Conservancy, intending to
transform the area into a beautiful tourist attraction and to apply
[to the United Nations Environment Program] for World Heritage
status,” already conferred on Table Mountain.
“In 1998 they asked the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and
Education baboon rehab sanctuary, founded and run by 72 year old
Rita Miljo, to bring some of her rehabilitated baboons there to
re-establish a natural baboon population.
“Then the hard part began,” Mercer continued. “North West
Conservation department bureaucrats managed to delay the baboon
release for four long years, requiring all sorts of veterinary tests
on the animals, and even medical tests on CARE staff.
“In line with CARE’s strict release procedures, every local
farmer at the release site had been consulted, and all had consented
to the reintroduction. The releases went smoothly. CARE staff stayed
with each troop for four and six months, respectively until Rita was
quite satisfied that the baboons would cope on their own.”
In October 1993, however, five baboons were poisoned, and
an orphaned baby died. “In August 2004,” Mercer added, “the alpha
male was shot by a neighbouring farmer, who bragged on TV that he
would ‘kill the lot of the damned animals.’
“Rita Miljo had to act to protect her baboons,” said Mercer,
“since the provincial conservation authorities clearly had no
intention of doing so. She asked one of the Dome Conservancy members
to re-capture the remaining baboons and keep them safe in an
enclosure until she could be persuaded that the Dome proposed world
heritage site was again safe for them. She notified the provincial
conservation authorities, who reacted by fining her agent for
keeping baboons without a permit.”