Africa

South Africa's Robben Island to cull 400 deer

A herd of fallow dear Image copyright AFP
Image caption South Africa's Robben Island is home to a number of animal species including deer, antelope and rabbits

South Africa's Robben Island will cull 400 fallow deer which have overrun the island, officials have told the BBC.

The venison will be distributed to staff on the island‚ as well as to prison services in Cape Town.

The culling of the island's animals will happen at night and be done by a professional hunter.

Nelson Mandela's former prison on Robben Island is now a popular tourist attraction. The island is home to a variety of plant and animal species.

South Africa's first democratically elected president was imprisoned for 27 years, 18 of which were spent on Robben Island, a harsh environment off the Cape Town coast.

The cull is intended to ensure a balance of the ecosystem on the island.

Three fallow deer were brought to the island in 1963, the same year Mr Mandela was sent there but the population has since grown to 450.

"In the past‚ culling was rarely necessary‚ because residents hunted the deer for meat and thereby maintained optimal numbers," South Africa's Times newspaper quote Robben Island Museum marketing manager Bongiwe Nzeku as saying.

"However‚ hunting practices were halted in 1990, when the island was declared a museum‚" she said.

Hunters culled about 220 fallow deer in 2009‚ and the following year an animal welfare group took another 52 to a sanctuary in the Free State.

Ms Nzeku said they had sought advice from the Cape of Good Hope Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals‚ the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Correctional Services and Cape Nature "to ensure that the cull was completed humanely".

"We treasure all of the island's natural resources and protecting them is our greatest priority. We look forward to them thriving once more," she said.

The skins of the deer will be used on a craft project on the island.

The island has also been overrun by rabbits, leading to a mass cull. The meat was donated to poor families.

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