Increasing Himalayan tahr and decreasing chamois densities in the eastern Southern Alps, New Zealand: evidence for interspecific competition
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- Forsyth, D. & Hickling, G. Oecologia (1998) 113: 377. doi:10.1007/s004420050389
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There is anecdotal evidence that increasing densities of Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) are associated with declining densities of chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) in the Southern Alps, New Zealand. To examine this phenomenon, densities of tahr and chamois were measured at 53 sites within their sympatric range in the eastern Southern Alps during 1978–1979. In sites where only one species was present, tahr density was significantly higher than chamois density (P=0.032), probably reflecting species differences in sociality. Chamois density was higher in catchments without tahr than in those with tahr (P=0.012). Similarly, tahr density was significantly higher at sites without chamois than at those with chamois (P=0.033). Sites with both species present (termed sympatric) were significantly larger than those with only chamois or tahr (P<0.001). Following the prohibition of aerial hunting of tahr in 1983, 16 of the 17 sites where tahr and chamois were sympatric during 1978–1979 were recounted during 1991–1996. There was a 6-fold increase in the mean density of tahr between the two counts (P=0.001), whereas chamois density had declined significantly (P=0.006). Chamois persisted at only three sites, two of which had the highest chamois densities in 1978–1979. This is evidence that increasing densities of tahr exclude chamois from all but the `best' habitats. We conclude that intensive aerial hunting of tahr during 1967–1983 reduced tahr densities such that chamois could co-exist with tahr.