[EXCLUSIVE] Illegal helicopter hazing of Tahr caught on camera

Himalayan Tahr Photo/ Stealth Films

Himalayan Tahr Photo/ Stealth Films

As regular readers will know I am a fan of hunting…the last trip I went on required me to stalk and observe Sambar. After I shot my deer I then had to go and locate and retrieve the animal…this was all done on foot, including recovering the animal up a steep blackberry covered gully.

Some people think that hunting should be done from helicopters. I disagree with them.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with the culling of pest herds and using helicopters and trained cullers to do that.

But actually flying over scared and frightened animals, or worse hazing them into exhaustion and then allowing people to shoot them is not hunting. It disgusts me.

I have been provided this video of a helicopter operator hazing and herding Tahr on Department of Conservation land. This requires the helicopter pilot to drop off his “hunters” and then to harass and scare animals into the range of what you will see are obviously inexperienced and useless shots.

Accompanying the video is a sworn affidavit of the three actual hunters who, sitting in blaze orange, were on a ridge when the helicopter cowboys flew in and proceeded to haze the Thar. They managed to capture stills, and video of the whole incident which has been released exclusively to WOBH.

According to the affidavit, signed by three NZDA hunters, they observed in the South Opuha block the following:

On that morning at 11:17am 9the time when the first photograph was taken) we were located at grid ref 170? 42.0976’E; 43? 54.441’S at about 1200m ASL to the south of Sugarloaf when we heard, then saw an approaching helicopter. It was travelling from the valley of the South opuha and along the tributary of that river which runs between our position and Sugarloaf heading in a north westerly direction, slightly higher than we were at about 1350-1400m. We could clearly see the marking of this black machine, HQL.

We began photographing itl firstly out of interest then, as we could see there was a definite purpose in his being there and as that purpose became clearer, we took more photos and video.

After passing us the helicopter seemed to be following the contour of the land in and out of shingle slide areas, then a little further up the valley it was flying quite slowly close to the ground. It as not long before 4 tahr appeared and ran off down the valley. The pilot kept the helicopter flying at low [altitude] until another 3 tahr were flushed out and ran up the slope away from the?creek to the south about 1000-1500m from our location. At this point the pilot appeared to ignore these animals and flew to a position on an adjoining slope where 2 passengers were delivered

[…]

Immediately the helicopter returned to the animals and we could clearly see 9and filmed) it chasing one across the slope, and a section of shingle slide then down into a small grassy area at the base of the slide. After hovering for a short time the other two tahr previously seen were hustles out and driven into a small gully beneath the place where the 2 people were deposited. After some flying up and down the gully it was obvious that the animals were being herded to where the shooter was.

The pilot at this point seemed to back out off out of the firing line. Six shots at intervals were heard. The pilot then disappeared from view back intot he gully and a minute or so later emerged with a tahr hanging beneath and what appeared to be one of those 2 people standing on the skid.

And there is also a?TIG ?(Tahr Interest Group) survey report filed with the Department of Conservation that independently confirms this incident occurred on Saturday 15 February 2014 at approximately?11 am.

The report states:

During Saturday 15th Feb 2014, just after 11am, a machine was heard near the saddle over towards Forest Creek, at the head of the valley – Sth Opuha left branch. I was at camp while [redacted] and [redacted] were out hunting for some meat to take home. The sound of the machine then went past me below the level of our bench down the Sth Opuha valley. [Redacted] arrived back shortly later from upstream near the saddle and he said a machine had landed at the saddle and then flown off again. I walked out to the edge of the bench and saw two people standing, outlined right on the saddle at the head of the valley. 9the saddle is a fairly rounded area of fine scree about 100m long which the tahr regularly us by the sign around). At approx 11.30am we heard a machine coming up from down the valley and it came right over the camp awning we were under, at about 100m altitude, with a tahr hanging from a long strop and flew towards the saddle. We walked out again and looked the saddle and now saw three people standing on the skyline. Later these people disappeared along with the machine.

The TIG reports are filed with DOC, they know about this incident and also the affidavit has been supplied to DOC as well.

On top of that my sources tell me that they have advised both Peter Dunne and also Nick Smith of this incident.

It is also my understanding that just days before this incident occurred the operator of ZK-HQL sign?an Aerial Assisted trophy Hunting permit. The permit states:

6.7. The Concessionaire must take all practicable steps to avoid, where possible, overflying tramping routes, tracks and other visitor facilities and must not conduct the Concession Activity on that part of the Land below the bushline or where there is no defined bush, the 800 meter contour.

6.8. The Concessionaire is to maintain a “look out” for recreationalists and ground hunter(s) and is to take all practicable steps to ensure that its activities do not come into conflict with those people.

The pilot obviously breached those conditions twice…once in the overflight of a camp and second in flying near and over another hunting party.

Furthermore the permits also stipulates that hazing and herding of animals is a prohibited activity.

22.3 The Concessionaire must not carry out, or authorise, any form of hazing, wilful, or reckless ill-treatment of wild animals or animals in wild state of wild animals (being the persecution, harassment or maltreatment of wild animals using a helicopter) (as described in the Code of Practice Aerially Assisted Guided Hunting; Schedule 5).

22.4 The concessionaire must not use a helicopter to herd (as described in the Code of Practice on Aerially Assisted Guided Hunting; Appendix 5) wild animals in any situation where that activity would interfere with:
? The safe enjoyment of public conservation land by other users; and
? The control of wild animals by recreational hunting.

Public Civil Aviation records show ZK-HQL is owned by?Station Air Ltd?of Ashburton. It is a Hughes 369HS.

ZK-HQL, Hughes 369HS operated by Station Air Limited

ZK-HQL, Hughes 369HS operated by Station Air Limited

This sort of behaviour is not hunting, it is anathema to everything good Kiwi hunters aspire to, and it needs to be addressed urgently. Operators such as this need to be held to account in ways that affect their pocket. Their DOC permits and concessions to fly and operate hunting expeditions into the DOC estate needs to be revoked when empirical and verified evidence such as this is proved to authorities.

We have a world class tahr herd in New Zealand, one with real tourist/hunting potential and cowboys like this ruin it for everyone.

The sad thing is that this activity isn’t illegal in New Zealand, but it is in other countries. The Safari Club also hands out lifetime bans for members caught hazing animals.

This story of activity should be banned, at least on DOC land, it isn’t hunting and certainly not a permitted cull.

It is time for Nick Smith and Peter Dunne to act in stopping this sort of behaviour.

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