New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2022) 46(3): 3486

The eradication of feral goats from Auckland Island

Research Article
Derek A. Brown 1
Keith G. Broome 2*
Kingsley G. Timpson 3
  1. 102 Cullensville Road, RD1 Picton 7281, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, Private Bag 3072, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
  3. Department of Conservation, PO Box 349, Rangiora 7440, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Feral goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) were eradicated from Auckland Island, a National Nature Reserve and World Heritage site, between 1989 and 1991. Goats had established on the main Auckland Island following several releases in the 19th century. The population, amongst the most southerly ever recorded, was restricted to the northernmost areas of the island, with environmental conditions appearing unfavourable for southward spread, and the population stable at c. 100 individuals during scientific studies in the 1970s and 1980s. These studies recommended eradication of the goats because of their damaging effect on indigenous vegetation, especially subantarctic endemic species. The main cull occurred in November 1989 when two fulltime and three part-time hunters shot 103 goats over 74 hunter-days effort. At least two more were poisoned using 1080 toxin applied to cut foliage of highly palatable species. A subsequent operation in February 1991 found limited sign, saw no animals, and again used poisoned foliage which possibly accounted for further animals. The last known goat was a solitary male shot from a helicopter in October 1991. Eradication was relatively straightforward, with unfavourable weather and logistical constraints due to the island’s isolation the greatest challenges to success. Scientific monitoring of vegetation recovery has been insufficient but anecdotal observations suggest a dramatic recovery of many flora species. This recovery is tempered by the continuing presence of feral pigs (Sus scrofa) in the same location.