Feral horses in the alps: Report of a workshop

Australian Alps Liaison Committee June 1993

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Summary

Interest in feral horse ecology, the impacts of horses on conservation values and their management has increased during the 1980’s. As part of the work program under the Memorandum of Understanding for the Co-operative management of the Australian Alps Narional Parks, the Pest Species Working Group held a Workshop to review knowledge of the feral horse in the Alpine environment.

Workshop Recommendations

Introduction

The Feral Horses in the Alps Workshop recognised that:

  • 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.

  • Accordingly the Pest Species Working Group believes feral horse management should receive high priority regardless of the imminent nature of threat posed by other feral species in individual reserves.

  • Feral horse populations are established in disjunct locations in the Alps National Parks and are likely to increase under existing management practices. While the rate of increase is unknown it would appear a low rate will allow for staged data collection and the formulation of a control program. While the lead time appears to be in the order of 3-5 years to commence appropriate control strategies, information on demography and ecology would confirm the urgency of the task. It is critical that data collection commence immediately.

  • The long-term management of feral horses lies in the recognition and balancing of attitudes and perceptions of the public and particular interest groups. A strategy to involve groups and draw public acceptance must be a part of any long-term management program on feral horses.

  • Existing management policies in the Alps should continue pending completion of an Action Plan for Feral Horses in the Alps. A consistent approach between agencies managing the Alps National Parks should ultimately be adopted in view of the mobility of feral horses.

Recommendations

Following from the Feral Horses in the Alps Workshop the Pest Species Working Group recommends:

  • An Action Pian be developed for implementation at the earliest opportunity.

  • For the period 1993-1996 the Action Plan will be developed from:

    • a study of feral horse demography (including mortality, reproduction rates, age classes, longevity, fecundity) and their ecology (including distribution, habitat and dietary preferences) in the Alps National Parks; and

    • a study of feral horse impacts to vegetation communities and the environment of the Alps National Parks (including vegetation, soil disturbance, grazier competition).

  • In association with data collection above, develop consultation and education programs based on these findings. Both data collection and education form part of the evolution of the Action Plan.

  • The Alps Liaison Committee approve the recommendations above and agree to commit supportive resources.

A suggested budget is given at Appendix 2.