The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) welcomed the Federal Court’s decision today that feral horses on Victoria’s Bogong High Plains were not a protected species.

The Australian Brumby Alliance had taken action in the Federal Court, saying that Parks Victoria’s plan to remove the horses from the park should have been referred to the Federal Environment Minister because the horses were part of the cultural heritage of the Australian alps.

“But the horses are causing great damage to the national park.  The moss beds and fens, high altitude wetlands and peatlands, listed as threatened under both Victorian and national environmental laws, are especially vulnerable to trampling by horses, and any other hard hooved animals” said Phil Ingamells, VNPA’s park protection advocate.

“Since the abolition of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park, these wetlands have been slowly recovering, only to be impacted now by a growing number of feral horses. Surveys have shown that horse numbers across the Australian Alps National Parks increased from around 9,000 in 2014 to 25,000 in 2019. That situation is an intolerable one for park managers responsible for protection of our natural heritage, and the headwaters of our mountain catchments.” Mr Ingamells added.

“Parks Victoria’s plan for management of the park, including for the removal of the horses, has been highly consultative, principled and evidence-based” said Mr Ingamells “It deserves the respect of the community”.

“The Victorian Nation Parks Association rejects the notion that alpine ‘brumbies’ should be protected as a special horse breed. They are actually a hotch-potch of breeds created when people have abandoned horses in the park over decades“, said Mr Ingamells.

“And horses are a domestic animal, poorly equipped for life in the alpine region. They suffer terribly in times of drought, fire and heavy snow.” Humane rehoming, or culling under veterinary supervision if necessary, is best for the horses and for the park.

“We hope this case will help lead to improved and well-resourced protection for all of Australia’s fragile alpine national parks, in Victoria, NSW and the ACT”, said Mr Ingamells.

“With cattle banned, and feral horses being controlled, we also need to increase action on feral deer and other feral species. It’s our job to hand these great natural areas on to future generations in good shape.”