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From the Minister for Environment & Climate Change

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Environment Minister Gavin Jennings has accepted the recommendation of the independent Scientific Advisory Committee to list the Sambar Deer as a threat to biodiversity under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

The Sambar Deer is the common name for large dark brown and maned Asian deer, which can grow up to 120 cm tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 240 kg.

Mr Jennings said the Sambar Deer was first introduced to Victoria in the 1860’s and was highly prized by hunters today but due to its feeding habits and behaviour was threatening native plants and wildlife.

“The Sambar Deer is widely recognised as a valuable game species but it is appropriate to review its management in light of the latest scientific information about the deer’s impact on native vegetation and biodiversity,” Mr Jennings said.

“The listing is necessary to address the negative impacts that Sambar Deer can have on our native plants and ecosystems.

“It does not change the status of Sambar Deer as a game species under the Wildlife Act 1975 and people will still be able to hunt it in line with existing regulations.”

Mr Jennings said Sambar Deer fed on particular kinds of plants, threatening some species, and caused physical damage through their territorial behaviour.

“By eating certain kinds of rare and threatened plants, and in particular the seedlings, fruit or seeds of these plants, the plants are becoming rarer and more endangered,” Mr Jennings said.

“Also, adult male Sambar Deer grow a new set of broad, heavy antlers each year. These are covered in ‘velvet’ which the Sambar removes by thrashing their antlers on shrubs and sapling trees. They also use their hardened antlers to ‘rub’ trees to leave marks to advertise their territory.

“This process can significantly damage the plants, removing most branches on some shrubs and sometimes ringbarking.

“Based on the expert advice from the Committee after their public consultation, I have accepted the independent recommendation to list the Sambar Deer as a threatening process, and instructed the DSE to develop a plan to manage the deer.”

Mr Jennings said the Department of Sustainability and the Environment (DSE), in consultation with hunters, botanical interest groups and other members of the community, will now develop a plan to manage the impact of Sambar Deer on its surrounding environment, particularly rare and threatened plants and ecosystems.

“This response could include targeted Sambar Deer control to minimise their impact in specific sensitive areas where the threat to native vegetation is the greatest,” Mr Jennings said.

“Sambar Deer are now widespread in the Eastern Highlands, from the mid-Yarra Valley to the ACT.

“Hunters could play a valuable role in controlling Sambar Deer numbers and in monitoring the effectiveness of control activities.

Mr Jennings called on hunters to support the consultation process through their representation on the working group that will be established to prepare an Action Statement.

“Hunters already undertake important conservation work in our parks and forests,” he said.

“They have a vital role to play in the ongoing monitoring and management of Sambar Deer to ensure there is a future for both the deer and our threatened plant species and native ecosystems.”

Victoria’s Scientific Advisory Committee is an independent committee of scientists established to advise the Environment Minister on nominations made under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

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