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Feral Horse Management Planning - Barmah

Update September 2018

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 National Park.

After extensive consultations with various stakeholders, a final format for a plan of management addressing significant environmental issues impacting the floodplains of the Barmah National Park was established in May 2018.  The plan is now nearing its final draft form and will be presented to the incoming government post the (Victorian) state election, November 2018.

The Barmah National Park 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.

A release of the draft plan, Strategic Action Plan - Protection of floodplain marshes in Barmah National Park and Barmah Forest Ramsar site, 2018 - 2019 is on track to occur in late 2018.   The plan will be made available for public comment via the Engage Victoria website for a 6 week period.

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

  • Maintaining and improving hydrological regimes:  environmental water flows
  • Control of grazing by feral horses
  • Control of feral pigs and other introduced herbivores
  • Manage encroachment by invasive plants

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 (report 2014). Community social and heritage values identified in the research will help inform park management strategies.

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 new survey technique using infra-red camera technology (FLIR) was trialed late in 2017.  A full FLIR survey occurred in mid-2018.  The analysis of data from this survey is currently underway.  There were 198 horses seen within the survey transects. The total area of the transects amounted to 15% of the total area of the park.  Final 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 has 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, an approach for the management of horses in the Barmah National Park will be developed as a component of the integrated plan for the protection of the environmental and cultural values of the Barmah Forest Ramsar site.