The second phase of the government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) project to remove introduced reindeer from South Georgia got underway in early January, reports the latest edition of the South Georgia newsletter.
A handful of reindeer were originally introduced to the island by the Norwegian whalers in the early 1900s. The animals were in two herds; one in the Busen area, one on the Barff Peninsula. They have since increased in numbers to several thousand. The animals have had a devastating impact on the island’s vegetation, with knock-on effects on native bird species.
Last summer the 2,000 strong Busen herd was successfully removed, and around 1,500 deer were also shot on the Barff Peninsula. The second phase, got underway on January 3rd when the six Norwegian hunters (SNO marksmen) were deployed to the Barff Peninsula to shoot the remaining reindeer.
The FPV Pharos SG is acting as support vessel, assisting in the deployment of the shooters and their gear around this large peninsula. The marksmen are primarily based in tented field camps though they will also use the field huts. They are walking long distances most days to track and seek out animals to try to ensure all the reindeer are found. The shooters are being picked up for a rest day on board the ship approximately every seventh day. Meat is being recovered from some of the animals for local consumption.
GSGSSI observers were posted in St Andrews Bay during shooting in the area to observe the effect of shooting on the king penguin colony and ensure there was no disturbance to the birds.
The second phase of the project is expected to be finished this month.