While Santa Claus may not be culling his reindeer herd now that Christmas is past, more than 3,000 of the animals have been marked for slaughter on the British Island of South Georgia (near Antartica), in a last ditch effort to save the environment there.
The animals, descendants of a small herd of 10 reindeer brought to the Island in 1911 to provide meet for Norwegian whale hunters, have become a menace, “causing great damage to the fragile South Georgian eco-system, trampling native plants and destroying birds' nests including those belonging to King penguins, pipits and pintails, “according to Reidar Andersen, director of the Norwegian Nature inspectorate which will supervise a 16-member team of Sami reindeer herdsmen hired for the kill.
Andersen added that the Sami are preparing corrals into which they will herd the reindeer, then slaughter them with a captive bolt gun shot to the head. Isolated beasts may be shot with rifles. The whole project is expected to take two southern hemisphere summers. It was also stated that the meat from the slaughtered reindeer would be taken to the Falkland Islands for sale as South Georgia lacks a permanent population and is only visited by government officials and scientists.
Reindeer, however, are not the only invasive species set to be eradicated from the South Georgia at present. In addition to the deer kill, scientists will begin spreading poison pellets over 220 square miles in the region in an attempt to wipe out an estimated 200 million rats that have been eating seabirds’ eggs and chicks. The rats, which arrived on board sealing and whaling vessels throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, have no natural predators there.
Once the rats are gone, scientists hope that the islands will again be able to support a population of 100 million birds.