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A century ago, a little-known, exotic animal, the Himalayan tahr, was introduced into New Zealand for big-game sporting purposes. From a few releases at Aoraki Mt Cook, tahr are now permanent inhabitants of the sub-alpine zones in the central Southern Alps. Their ecology, lifestyle and unique behaviour, both here and in their homelands, remained largely undocumented. Until now.

Ken Tustin was drawn to working with Himalayan tahr: As a hunter, scientist, helicopter pilot and as a documentary film-maker. His involvement with tahr spans 45 years. It began as a 19-year-old hunting tahr as scientific specimens for researcher Dr. Graeme Caughley. He then went on to study them himself as a scientist for the Forest Research Institute, covering many aspects of tahr population demography, census, ecology, range use and behaviour; the latter involving a direct observation study, living alone, mid-slope in the Godley Valley in a tiny hut/ hide for the best part of two years.

Ken’s life then changed. A helicopter pilot, based at Wanaka, his second career included work with tahr: Aerial control for the Department of Conservation and tourist hunting for trophies in the Southern Alps, intermingled with long trips overseas. But Ken’s special interest in tahr behaviour, inspired early by Dr. George Schaller on a working visit to NZ, remained unfulfilled. Questions still nagged: Understanding tahr social organisation, dramatically and uniquely played out by this alpine animal. When medical misadventure halted his aviation career, Ken returned to his favourite animal, this time with notebook and camera. The result of all these adventures is this book.

It is the intimate story of Ken Tustin’s growing respect for a remarkable animal, seen over a lifetime, through the eyes of a hunter, researcher, pilot and behaviour-study film-maker. One man’s quietly increasing affection for an extraordinary wild animal: The Himalayan tahr.

Softcover - 328 pages

Published 2011

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  • Seller location: Hamilton, Waikato, NZ

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