Feral horse management – Report of a workshop

Thredbo NSW, 29 – 31 March 2004

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Introduction

Feral horse management across the Alps has a long history and often a very high profile within the community both locally, nationally and sometimes internationally. The interest and passion that the topic attracts has often hampered efforts to protect the environment from increasing evidence of environmental impacts. Past attempts to manage horses have been faced with tremendous scrutiny and adverse publicity. In 1987 ACT Parks destroyed a small number of horses in Namadgi National Park, which resulted in a huge public out cry. A similar public outcry followed the destruction of feral horses in Guy Fawkes National Park in November 2000 and also resulted in a moratorium on aerial shooting of horses within protected areas in NSW.

Over recent years, however, across the Australian Alps National Parks (AANP) and in other areas of Australia, there have been significant breakthroughs in feral horse management. The most humane and cost effective methods of control are not always the most popular with the community and conservation agencies are often forced to use more expensive and time consuming live trapping methods to control ever increasing populations.

In recognition of the community’s views on feral horse management, agency staff across the alps have started to work with the community to develop strategies for sustainable management and in some cases total eradication of horses from an area. There have been major advancements in technique for trapping, mustering, transporting and handling wild horses as well as development in impact monitoring and population surveys.

This workshop provided an opportunity for staff involved in managing feral horses to network and share ideas on techniques and sustainable management strategies. It was the second feral horse workshop funded by the AANP, the first workshop being held at Howman’s Gap, Victoria in 1992.

It is interesting to review the recommendations developed from the workshop 12 years ago, which are still just as valid today:

“Due to the level of public interest, it is unlikely that a single state, or single agency will be able to effect long-term management in isolation.”

Both workshops have embraced the concept of working together across borders to achieve long term management of feral horses and their impacts.