Preparations for the removal of the 350-plus exotic fallow deer from the Groote Schuur Estate are well advanced and Table Mountain National Park staff hope to live-capture the first group of 160 in the coming weeks.
CapeNature permits to transfer the deer to three licensed game farms in the Western Cape, which all have existing fallow deer populations, are expected to be issued within the next few days.
At a conference to announce the deers' removal on Tuesday, senior managers of the park and CapeNature said hunting took place on these game farms and that some of the Table Mountain deer could be shot during hunts.
They said the plan was to remove as many of the deer as possible in live captures.
'The deer compete with indigenous species, and have to be removed'
These would be in the coming late winter, when the deer come into the fenced game camp on the slopes of Devil's Peak to feed on newly emerging grass.
However, the small number that could not be caught would be shot.
The deer are being removed because they cause ecological damage, said the officials.
The removal was part of the park's legislated mandate and of a wildlife management plan for the Table Mountain National Park for 2010.
By then, they hope to have enlarged the current 40 hectare game enclosure on the Groote Schuur Estate, also known as Rhodes Estate, to 400ha and to have reintroduced eight species of indigenous fauna, including eland, red hartebeest and duiker.
The conference followed a meeting between the two conservation authorities and representatives of several organisations, including animal rights groups and the Table Mountain National Park Forum on Tuesday.
Some of these groups are opposed to the killing of the deer and want the animals to be moved to sanctuaries where they can be sterilised and allowed to live out their natural lives.
The deers' removal is supported by five major environmental groups - WWF-SA, the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Botanical Society of South Africa and the Wilderness Foundation - and the national Working for Water programme.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the organisations said live removal would be "the preferred first option".
National park manager Brett Myrdal said the organisation wanted to "restore the balance of the ecosystems of the Table Mountain National Park, and of Groote Schuur Estate in particular, by reintroducing naturally occurring wildlife and restoring the renosterveld plant community".
This was being done in the spirit of the will of Cecil John Rhodes, who had donated the Groote Schuur Estate to the nation, and in consultation with the Park Forum, said Myrdal.
Myrdal was challenged by a radio journalist on the legality of removing the deer without a full public participation process.
Myrdal said the removal of alien species in general, including the deer, was the subject of "exhaustive" public participation since 1999, when the park's policies and management plans were developed.
He said the public was asked to comment on their alien species management through the Park Forum.
SA National Parks' executive director conservation services, Dr Hector Magome, said the removal of alien species from ecosystems was "no longer an issue of scientific debate".
"It is global conservation practice in the whole world, to protect biodiversity... It is not an issue of fallow deer per se. The deer compete (with indigenous species), and have to be removed."
CapeNature's biodiversity director Dr Kas Hamman said that in terms of South Africa's new Biodiversity Act, they were not allowed to give permits for the movement of alien species between properties.
However, they could grant "one-off" permits to allow the deer to be removed from the national park to the game farms.