In July state-of-the-art thermal camera aerial technology was trialed as part of the search for the final remaining goats in the subalpine area of Egmont National Park.
The good news was that the experienced thermal team did not detect any goats or see any sign of goats during the 30 hours of operational flying time.
Hunting and local expertise was provided by staff from the Department of Conservation’s Te Anau and Taranaki offices, and a team from Te Anau Helicopters conducted the aerial operation and thermal detection work.
The result from the trial indicates the very low number of goats removes the threats this pest poses to native plants in the park, some of which are only found on the Mounga.
Goats have caused significant damage to the forest structure over the last 100 years, as they eat young seedlings, saplings and ring bark mature trees. This vegetation is an important food sources and places to live for native insects, lizards and birds.
This outcome is attributed to the heightened ground hunting efforts over the past few years which included some of the best hunters in the country and from the local Department of Conservation office.
Taranaki Mounga Project Manager Sean Zieltjes is pleased with this result saying hunters knew through their experience on the Mounga that goat numbers were now very low.
“This thermal result gives us a firm indication that we are on the right track towards removal all goats in the national park” says Sean.
Taranaki Mounga are currently looking at options as to how to finish the job or prove that goats are now functionally extinct due to the very low numbers that may still be on the park.
The project is also asking for help from neighbouring residents to stop the reintroduction of goats onto the park.
“We know tethered goats occasionally escape from private properties,” says Sean. “Some move to the park and breed. It is important for the biodiversity of the Mounga that this does not happen.”
An awareness campaign will start later this year and will share information with surrounding neighbours on the impact goats have on the park and how goat owners can properly restrain their animals.
Removing the threat of goats is part of a broader predator control programme managed by the Taranaki Mounga Project.