Wild horses pose a major threat to the Australian High Country. One of the dilemmas faced by land managers is that horse populations can cross borders to recolonise ecosystems if populations are removed in one state. Cross border collaboration between Victoria, NSW and the ACT is a key part of dealing with the problem.

The ACT Government has sent a strong message to its NSW and Victorian counterparts with the release of the Feral Horse Management Plan for Namadgi national park, which was devastated in last summer’s fires.

The conservation group Reclaim Kosci welcomes the plan, which ‘contains tough new measures designed to protect horses from entering Namadgi from adjoining land and establishing populations in the park’. Because the NSW has neglected to control wild horse numbers in Kosciuszko national park, wild horses can cross over into the ACT mountains.

The plan includes:

  • Protection measures include cameras and on-the-ground surveillance to detect horse incursions.
  • Control measures detailed in the new plan include passive trapping and humane destruction of horses on site, aerial shooting, and free-range ground shooting.

“Horses don’t respect boundaries,” ACT environment minister Mick Gentleman told Reclaim Kosci.

“There’s no border control for horses, so they will go where the feed and the environment is good for them.”

Reclaim Kosci spokesperson Anthony Sharwood said the ACT has led the way in eradicating feral horses in Namadgi in the past, and this revamped plan will ensure that horses don’t pollute Namadgi’s precious waterways and trample its rare alpine plants and animal habitats.”

This is a win for every Canberran who loves drinking clear, clean water, and for everyone who loves Namadgi, which is recovering slowly from last summer’s fires and cannot afford a four-hooved threat decimating its fragile ecosystems,” Mr Sharwood said.

Reclaim Kosci say:

‘The most recent aerial survey in 2019 estimated around 25,000 feral horses in the entire Australian Alps bioregion. The majority of these (around 20,0000) are in Kosciuszko National Park in NSW, with around 5,000 in the Victorian high country’.

There are currently believed to be none in Namadgi National Park and the high country of the ACT.

“The other states need to sit up and take notice of the work being done by ACT environment minister Mick Gentleman,” Mr Sharwood said.

“In NSW, feral horses are protected by legislation passed in 2018. Because of the Wild Horse Heritage Act, vast areas of Kosciuszko are being ruined, with creeks becoming mudheaps, wetlands being destroyed, and native grasslands reduced to bare earth.”

This failure to manage horses adequately in NSW has led to growing horse numbers in the northern end of Kosciuszko National Park, meaning horses are ever more likely to cross into the ACT.

Victoria is now acting to reduce its feral horse threat after being delayed by court action, but its horse plan is not as comprehensive as the ACT’s.

TEXT for this story comes from Reclaim Kosci and is available here.

You can find the plan here >  2020 Namadgi National Park Feral Horse Management Plan.

IMAGE: Reclaim Kosci.