Victoria plans to trap and rehome or euthanase 1200 feral horses in the state’s high country to combat “severe damage” to fragile ecosystems in the Alpine National Park.
The plan appears to be at odds with the New South Wales Government’s decision last month to reverse a planned cull of brumbies in recognition of the “heritage value and cultural significance” of the animals.
Announcing the plan on Saturday, Victoria’s Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio called on the Berejiklian Government to reconsider its policy.
“It’s confounding that the New South Wales Government has done an absolute u-turn on their policy to tackle feral horses in our most pristine national parks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“We do call upon the New South Wales Government … to actually change their position – to go back to the science,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“The science backs the need for stronger controls of feral horses.”
Feral horses causing ‘severe damage’
The Victorian Government estimates there are 2500 feral horses in Victoria’s eastern alps and Ms D’Ambrosio said they were causing “severe damage” to “vulnerable ecosystems”.
“Feral horses cannot be allowed to run rampant in the Alpine National Park – their hard hooves damage the precious environment and destroy the habitats of threatened species,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Ms D’Ambrosio said the Government planned to remove up to 1,200 horses over three years.
“The objective there is not to thoroughly eradicate every single horse, but to bring them back to manageable levels,” she said.
The Government would seek to remove the entire population of between 60 and 100 feral horses from the Bogong high plains.
Animals to be removed ‘humanely’
Under the plan, horses would be captured using “passive trapping”, a method which involves luring animals into a fenced area using feed such as lucerne, salt or molasses.
Where possible, animals would be rehomed, and those that are ill, injured or aged would be euthanased.
“This will be done humanely,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Parks Victoria chief conservation scientist Mark Norman said some areas damaged by feral horses looked “like an elephant herd has run through them”.
“The horses break up the water bodies, they eat the vegetation and they stomp out the habitats of many of the small, unique creatures that only occur in these special places,” Dr Norman said.
“Australia’s alps and the Victorian Alpine National Park are a really special part of the world,” he said.
“They’re as unique as the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon rainforest and the plants and animals that live there are found nowhere else in the world.
“Horses evolved in another part of the world and our system is not adapted for these half-tonne heavy-hoofed animals to live in these environments.
“It’s not that horses aren’t great animals. They’re just not in the right place – in the same way you wouldn’t let them into your vegetable patch.”
New South Wales plays down differences
New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro said there was little difference between the Victorian and New South Wales plans.
“Victoria’s plan states ‘Trapping will be the principal method to control the population. Shooting will not be used during the three-year plan’. Which is the same as our approach,” Mr Barilaro said in a statement.
“To be clear, the New South Wales Government’s Brumbies Bill is not about making the Brumby a protected species, it’s about finding a balance to manage sensitive areas of the National Park, whilst managing the population of Brumbies without lethal culling.”