Key Threatening Process Nomination Form For adding a threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (epbc act)

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Key Threatening Process Nomination Form - For adding a threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)

Nominated threatening process – summary of eligibility

6. Name of threatening process

Herbivory and environmental degradation caused by feral deer

7. Criteria under which the threatening process is eligible for listing

Identify which criteria the threatening process meets (one or more). Please note that the information you provide in this nomination form should support your claim. For further details on the criteria, please refer to Part A of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee guidelines attached to this form.

X Criterion A - Evidence that the threatening process could cause a native species or ecological community to become eligible for listing in any category, other than conservation dependant.

X Criterion B - Evidence that the threatening process could cause a listed threatened species or ecological community to become eligible for listing in another category representing a higher degree of endangerment.

X Criterion C - Evidence that the threatening process adversely affects two or more listed threatened species (other than conservation dependant species) or two or more listed threatened ecological communities.

Section 1 - Name and Description

Conservation Theme

1. The conservation themes for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2010 (for which nominations close 25 March 2010) are ‘heathlands and mallee woodlands’, and ‘terrestrial, estuarine and near–shore environments of Australia’s coast’.
How does this nomination relate to the conservation themes?

Not applicable


2. Name of nominated threatening process. The name should accurately reflect the scope of the process based on the description and evidence provided in this form.

Herbivory and environmental degradation caused by feral deer


3. Description of the threatening process that distinguishes it from any other threatening process, by reference to:

(i) its biological and non-biological components;

1.(ii) the processes by which those components interact (if known).

1.Feral deer in Australia - background

Deer are hard-hoofed mammals (ungulates) of family Cervidae distributed over Eurasia and the Americas. The first successful introductions into Australia were by acclimatisation societies in the 1800s. A history of their introduction can be found in Moriarty (2004). Of 18 species released, six species of three genera have established populations that currently survive and are the subject of this nomination (for a description see Van Dyck and Strahan 2008 and section 2 here):

  • Chital (Axis axis)

  • Hog Deer (Axis porcinus)

  • Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)

  • Rusa Deer (Cervus timorensis)

  • Sambar (Cervus unicolor)

  • Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Feral populations have established due to release by acclimatisation societies (7% of 218 populations identified in 2002); escapes and releases from deer farms (35%); and translocation, presumably for hunting (58%) (Moriarty 2004). The rapid growth in deer farming in the 1970s-80s (an annual 25% increase in the number of farmed deer) has been the source for the recent expansion in wild deer populations (Jesser 2005). When the market for deer products crashed in the early 1990s some farmers released their deer or failed to maintain adequate fencing. Others were bought cheaply by hunters and released into new areas.

Collectively, ungulates have been implicated in significant adverse impacts on the environment, with goats and pigs recognised as key threatening processes under the EPBC Act and others such as camels the subject of substantial federally funded control programs. They have damaging impacts in common: consumption of rare species, competition with native herbivores, degradation of habitats by compaction, erosion and vegetation destruction, and weed spread. However, in contrast to most other feral ungulates, deer have had a reputation in Australia as environmentally benign. Deer have done ‘no noticeable damage in Australia’, said Rolls (1969) and Bentley (1998) claimed they ‘are a benign presence in the Australian environment’. This reputation is due to relatively low populations, their low visibility in the environment and a lack of research. The deer hunting lobby has strongly promoted a positive image for deer, for they are regarded as premier game animals and highly sought-after trophy animals. Recent reports of rapid increases in deer numbers and deer damage in many areas increasingly undermine claims them ** the earlier benign reputation.
As Frith (1973) argues, the introduction of any large herbivore cannot fail to have an impact. Exotic deer elsewhere are known to cause substantial ecological damage (see Cotes et al. 2004 for a summary) and damage caused by exotic herbivores of comparable size – feral goats, for example – is substantial and typically related to population size (Parkes et al. 1996). With favourable climates in Australia, lack of predators and diseases, a large dietary range and adaptability to a wide range of habitats, deer could become one of Australia’s most successful and damaging invaders (Low 2008).
Because of the strong hunting lobby in some states, feral deer have an unusual and variable legal status throughout Australia (see section 3 here). In some states they are accorded protection equivalent to that for native animals; in others they are declared pest species. In the three states in which deer are protected for hunting, spotlight hunting (usually the most effective method of ground shooting) is not permitted.
Interestingly, two of the states in which deer are protected (Victoria and NSW) have also listed one or more species as threatening processes, creating an apparent conflict in management goals. These declarations occurred only because there are independent scientific committees in these states to assess nominations for threatening processes. In Victoria, the Australian Deer Association attempted to have the ‘Potentially Threatening Process’ declaration overturned in court.

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