NEWS 5 November 2021 |
Home to the rare and fuzzy Tooarranna, endangered skinks, crayfish, and fascinating alpine plants, the Alpine National Park is one of Victoria’s most prized natural places.
But this unique environment faces a critical threat – an exploding population of feral horses (at least 5000 of them) are trampling the high country, silting the pristine headwaters of many of Victoria’s major rivers, and wrecking the delicate moss beds that protect those headwaters.
In November 2021, Parks Victoria (the government agency that is responsible for managing Alpine National Park) released a strategy to deal with the population boom, following the expiry of the previous Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan 2018-21. The plan involved years of consultation with the broad community, brumby support groups, cattlemen, animal welfare experts, Aboriginal communities and, of course, those ecologists who have spent decades studying the remarkable species and habitats of the high country.
The integrity of that science, and the importance of controlling feral horses, has been clearly affirmed by Australia’s Federal Court.
Importantly, control of feral horses and other hard-hooved animals like deer, goats, and pigs is a requirement of a range of laws including Victoria’s National Parks Act 1975 and Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, and the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Parks Victoria’s Feral Horse Action Plan also prioritises the most humane, safe and effective control of the animals, ruling out barbaric show-pony practices like roping and mustering in favour of passive trapping, rehoming when there is demand, and in-situ ground shooting, with capacity for aerial shooting when necessary. These are considered the best management options by animal welfare authorities.
The plan prioritises the Bogong High Plains and the eastern Alps, helping to protect these remarkable areas for future generations to enjoy. The National Heritage listed alpine parks of mainland Australia are recognised for their remarkable plants and animals, including the extensive high plains covered in spring and summer wildflowers.
Unfortunately, just across the border, NSW’s approach to feral horse management isn’t so strong – and feral horses don’t observe state boundaries. Their recent draft plan is outdated in its approach and its attitude – it has fallen victim to hurriedly introduced NSW legislation actually protecting ‘heritage’ horses in Kosciuszko National Park. Victoria’s plan is a realistic one, offering hope for protection of the remarkable natural heritage of our small alpine region. The important thing now is to make sure the plan is achieved, so future generations can see our remarkable high country at its best.
Learn more about this important issue from Phil Ingamells, our lead Parks Protection campaigner, who shared his expertise on The Conversation Hour.