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Feral Horse Management Planning

Update October 2017

During January and February 2017, Parks Victoria undertook targeted consultation with key stakeholders and interested parties on the development of operational plans for the management of feral horse populations in the Barmah and Alpine National Parks.

The Barmah National Park Roundtable Group and the Victorian Alps Roundtable Group provided input to Parks Victoria on the implementation of feral horse management at a local level. The roundtable groups comprised participants from the previous roundtable groups (commenced 2012), together with other interested parties whose views on the implementation of feral horse management reflect the diversity of community views.

Following the consultation activities, all input was considered by a state-wide Technical Reference Group comprising scientists, academics, animal welfare representatives and the traditional owners from Barmah, the Yorta Yorta Nation.

Subject to government approval, plans for the protection of the Barmah National Park and Ramsar site, and the Alpine National Park will be released for public comment late in 2017

Acknowledging the designation of the Barmah forest as an international Ramsar (wetland) site, the approach for Barmah will focus on protecting the site through:

  • Management of introduced grazers and browsers (e.g.  horses, pigs, deer, goats and rabbits).
  • Management of introduced predators (e.g. foxes).
  • Management of hydrology: environmental water.
  • Abatement of terrestrial weeds.

The  Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan for the protection of the Alpine National Park will focus on increasing the management of feral horse populations above current removal rates in the Bogong High Plains, the Eastern Alps and adjacent state forest and other public land.

Updates regarding the development of the two plans will be provided on this site.

Background – Barmah National Park

Barmah National Park is jointly managed by Parks Victoria and Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation (YYNAC) and is home to internationally significant wetlands, rare and threatened species and ecological communities, as well as many significant Aboriginal cultural heritage sites.

Parks Victoria understands there are a range of views on wild horses, and undertook research to better understand the social and heritage values of wild horses in Barmah National Park. The research, by independent consultants Context Pty Ltd, included an online survey which has been completed, and the preparation of a brief history of the Barmah horses through interviews and archival research.

Community social and heritage values identified in the research will help inform park management strategies.

Community consultation in 2014 canvassed the range of views about the removal of Barmah horses and how it should be managed.

An aerial survey conducted in January 2012 identified a minimum of 140 wild horses in the park. A local community facilitated (horseback) survey in February 2017 counted between 150-160 horses. A further survey using infra-red camera technology will occur in the later part of 2017.  Results from this survey are expected to provide a high degree of accuracy. Results will be shared with community interest groups.

No trapping of horses in Barmah National Park currently takes place. Removal of horses, other than for humane purposes, will not take place in the Barmah Forest until the plan for the protection of the Barmah National Park and Ramsar site have been finalised.

The Barmah Forest is an international Ramsar (wetland) site. This area includes Barmah National Park and other Victorian public land.  Due to there being several connected threats to Barmah National Park, management the approach for the management of horses in the Barmah National Park will be developed as a component of an integrated plan for the protection of the Ramsar Site Protection.

Background – Alpine National Park

The Greater Alpine National Parks Management Plan released in December 2016 recognises that many people have a strong attachment to horses being in the Australian Alps and wish for horses to remain as part of the alpine experience. However wild horses are widespread throughout the Australian Alps and they are causing significant damage to this region including fragile alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems.

Community consultation in 2012 canvassed the range of views about the removal of horses and how it should be managed.

The Australian Alps is a place of outstanding natural and cultural significance and the national parks within them are included on the Australian National Heritage List. Containing the highest points in the Great Dividing Range and spanning more than 600 km from Victoria to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), they cover an area of more than 1.6 million hectares.

Since 1986, State and Federal Governments have jointly managed these parks to protect the area’s special character under the Australian Alps National Parks Cooperative Management Program. The Program is delivered by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee (AALC). The AALC have undertaken a variety of wild horse research and monitoring projects and in May 2016 released a fact sheet and two reports:

Parks Victoria has worked with horse interest groups to remove and rehome horses through a trapping and roping (brumby running) program in the Alpine National Park for the past decade. Close to 1,000 horses have been removed from the Eastern Alps and around 280 from the Bogong High Plains.

These previous removal efforts have not been sufficient to mitigate the severe impacts of horses in vulnerable areas, particularly to waterways, alpine and subalpine stream banks and alpine peatlands. Some iconic areas of our parks, including the source of the Murray River in the Alpine National Park, are in very poor condition and are not showing resilience to the impacts of horses.