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BBC Wales's Geraint Vincent
"Of a herd of 15 Axis deer brought to the park two years ago, only one animal remains."
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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Poachers target rare deer
Pere David deer
An endangered Pere David deer was fatally shot
Concern is growing for the safety of rare breeds of deer on the Margam Park Estate in south Wales that are being targeted by poachers.

Park rangers say three deer have been shot dead in the past week.

It is thought the animals are being taken for their meat.

Axis deer
A surviving rare Axis deer

The forest and grassland at Margam Park in Port Talbot has been home to hundreds of deer for many years.

The park's 850 acres provide plenty of room for the herds to graze but easy access to the grounds, particularly at night, has meant that the animals are increasingly vulnerable to poachers.

Two groups of deer in particular have been targeted. Both are rare breeds.

Of a herd of 15 Axis deer brought to the park two years ago, only one animal remains.

Park manager Ray Butt
Park manager Ray Butt

Last week, one of another herd of endangered deer, the Pere Davids of which there are only 2,000 left in the world, was found fatally injured, shot through its leg.

"I think as far as the Pere David is concerned, it is because it is so large," said park manager Ray Butt.

"These animals show no fear at all. The Axis are a particularly attractive breed, I think their coat was the attraction to the poachers."

The rangers are in a difficult situation when it comes to trying to protect the herds.

They work daylight hours, but the poachers drive into the park under cover of darkness, shoot deer and take the carcasses away to sell as venison.

The rangers say that due to a lack of shotgun expertise among less experienced poachers, many animals are simply being left wounded, or ravaged by the poachers' dogs.

'Peaks and troughs'

The man responsible for the overall running of the park says that the problem is inevitable.

"These things tend to go in cycles," said John Powell of Neath Port Talbot Council.

"I don't know what reason there is for that but we do get peaks and troughs. We get certain problem at certain times and lesser problems at other times."

It is clear the problem is happening at night when poachers can not only gain easy access to the park but are allowed to move around quite freely inside.

Some says the implementation of a 24-hour system would appear to be an urgent necessity in providing the animals with a safe place to live.

But it is up to the local council to decide whether or not to put one in place.

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