Parks Victoria (PV) have released an updated draft action plan outlining feral horse management intentions over the next ten years.
You have until Friday 23 April to provide comment on the plan.
‘The high-altitude peaks and plains of the Australian Alps are rare, representing just 0.3 per cent of the area of this flat, dry and hot continent.
Alpine animals, plants and ecosystems have evolved and adapted over millions of years to survive in the high plains of the Alpine National Park.
Many don’t exist anywhere else in the world.
The risk of species extinctions is very real in the context of a warming and drying climate, increased fire frequency, weed invasion, predation and habitat destruction caused by introduced species.
Parks Victoria is already taking critical action to remove weeds and other pest animals from protected areas and regularly undertakes programs to manage deer, pigs and other non-native species using a range of control techniques.
Feral horse management is a critical need in an integrated approach to reducing the total impacts caused by introduced animals in the Alpine National Park’.
‘A number of legal challenges, limited interest in rehoming horses and worsening environmental conditions (increasing horse numbers and the Black Summer bushfires) have limited the planned outcomes of the 2018-21 Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan, due to finish in June 2021’.
The draft action plan outlines the preferred methods of managing feral horses, including trapping and rehoming, tightly managed shooting and construction of exclusion fences, with goals to improve environmental condition and improve threatened species survival.
“We have revised our management practices, bringing in additional methods to help reduce feral horse numbers while aiming to maximize the numbers captured and rehomed.
We are releasing the draft plan to provide people with the opportunity to review our updated approach and give us honest and constructive feedback.” – a Parks Victoria spokesperson
The draft Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 is available for public feedback on the Engage Victoria website until Friday 23 April, https://engage.vic.gov.au/alpine-feral-horse-action-plan.
In response, the Invasive Species Council said:
The Victorian Government is striding ahead to protect its part of the Australian Alps with the release today of its new plan.
“Victorian Government plans to use all humane methods possible to limit the spread and damage of feral horses in the Australian Alps are in stark contrast to the NSW Government, which is failing dismally to stop the spread of feral horses on their side of the border.”
“The newly-proposed Victorian measures, which include trapping and rehoming as well as lethal culling in high priority conservation areas of the park, provide a sensible and balanced approach to reducing feral horse numbers in the Australian Alps.
“The proposed plan follows best practice guidelines for feral animal control and comes after decades of community consultation and trial and error.
“Between 2018 and 2021 only 140 horses were removed from the Victorian Alps through trapping and roping, which allowed horse numbers to escalate, making a new plan of attack necessary.”
The release of the Victorian draft action plan follows in the footsteps of the ACT Government, which has a strong no-tolerance policy towards feral horses, and leaves NSW, which is still operating under an outdated horse management plan from 2008, in the dark ages.
“Both the Victorian and ACT governments have been forced to revise their horse management plans to deal with an escalation in feral horse numbers caused by inadequate control measures across the Australian Alps,” Mr Cox said.
“All three state governments, Victoria, NSW and the ACT, share management of the Australian Alps, so NSW needs to stop dragging its feet on feral horse management and release its own updated horse management plan, which was promised more than a year ago, to the public.
“Feral horse control has remained stagnant in Victoria over the past few years, despite Parks Victoria winning several legal battles giving it the green light to proceed with stronger measures.”
The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) also welcomed the release of the plan:
These hard-hooved grazers are wrecking the park’s highly vulnerable alpine peat beds and wetlands, and potentially pushing already threatened species of plants and animals towards extinction.
The important next step is to make sure the plan is actually implemented.
“State and national laws, backed by international agreements, all call for feral animals to be controlled in national parks. Horses are a domestic farm animal, and have no place in one of our most vulnerable and prized natural areas.”
The ACT Government has also welcomed Victoria’s new draft feral horse plan, ‘which expands management options and better aligns with our zero-tolerance approach to the pest animals’.
Minister for Land Management Mick Gentleman said strong horse management policies were essential to protect sensitive alpine ecosystems.
“Feral horses are one of the largest causes of environmental degradation in Australia’s alpine parks,” Minister Gentleman said.
“Alpine wetlands filter the water that flows into our drinking catchments and increasing feral horse numbers risk severely damaging these sensitive areas.
“We added Namadgi’s ‘High Country Bogs and Associated Fens’ to the ACT Threatened Ecological Communities List last year based on advice from the ACT Scientific Committee.
“Victoria’s new plan will give their ecologists and parks staff more options to effectively manage horse populations within their borders.
HEADER IMAGE: Native Cat Flat, Alpine National Park, March 2021, showing horse exclusion zones.