Sambar in New Zealand

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Worldwide Distribution: The sambar is a deer species which exhibits great variation in form across its natural range. 16 sub-species of sambar are described from different parts of South East Asia. The New Zealand and Australian wild sambar herds are derived from the large bodied Sri Lankan sub-species (Cervus unicolor unicolor) and are bigger than red deer. Outside of Asia, sambar can be found on St Vincent Island in the Carribean, Australia and New Zealand.

Moratorium and Management: During the 1980s a moratorium was placed over hunting of sambar because their survival was considered to be threatened. Recently, up until 2007 the hunting of the Manawatu herd was controlled and administered by a group called the Sambar Deer Management Committee (SDMC) based in Palmerston North. Under the SDMC less than 100 animals were officially harvested per year in the Manawatu area. While this was a technical victory for hunters, significant poaching of sambar continued. In 2007 the SDMC was dissolved and sambar hunting was no longer restricted. However, access to sambar remains difficult.

The Two Herds: New Zealand sambar still survive in two discrete herds. (see map below) One herd is found along the coast of Manawatu and the other east of Rotorua. But within the boundaries of these two herds, the animals are unevenly distributed and survive in pockets rather than as a continuous population. Sambar occupy a variety of habitats, often in proximity to farmed land. This habitat includes sand dune country, secondary growth and exotic pine forest. Their habit of hiding in cover during daylight hours and moving out to feed at night makes them a difficult deer to hunt. Unlike red deer, sambar can live in close proximity to human habitation provided there is sufficient cover for them to hide in during daylight hours. The Rotorua herd is theoretically more accessible because sambar are found over a larger area, much of it DOC administered land. However reasonable animal numbers are only found on private properties or in corporately owned forests where access is restricted. In this area sambar also occupy scrub and native forest. The annual harvest from the Rotorua herd was never known because hunting was never tightly controlled and monitored as was the case with the Manawatu sambar up until 2007. Trophies


New Zealand trophies compare well with trophies from the Sri Lankan subspecies from which they originate. Only one other subspecies from the Indian subcontinent produces larger heads. The top NZ trophies are superior to the best Australian trophies.

Best NZ Sambar Head

Douglas Score 280 38.

Antler Cast


Antlers Hardening





For more information e-mail   Steuart   of NZ Hunting Info Ltd