Barmah National Park Update
Friday 18 January, 2019
Currently, the Barmah National Park is under duress from the extreme dry conditions, impacting native and introduced species that inhabit the park, including feral horses. This has created a circumstance that does not support the large horse population currently in the park. Based on aerial thermal imaging surveys conducted in June 2018, the best estimates of feral horse numbers in Barmah National Park was greater than 500.
Reports that the flooding in the park has caused the issue are untrue. In late November 2018, Parks Victoria undertook an aerial visual survey of Barmah National Park by helicopter. This survey observed and filmed that the feral horses observed within the park were within the flooded wetlands, feeding on submerged and emerged Moira grass. These horses appeared to be in healthy condition.
A smaller number of horses were observed in areas with little vegetation towards the edges of the park. These horses are in poor condition including a group being hand fed on private land adjacent to the park. Some are only 1 – 2 kilometres from areas in which they can feed and it is unclear as to why they aren’t moving into these areas as they are still in a condition that would allow them to walk this distance.
Parks Victoria also conducted aerial surveys in the week commencing 14 January to monitor the state of the park, and found all horses sighted to be in good condition.
The feeding of native or introduced animals is not supported under either legislation or parks regulations as this can interfere with their ability to forage on their own and creates a dependence on human intervention.
Parks Victoria staff are conducting patrols twice daily across the park, with support from a team of equine vets, as well as responding to public notifications of distressed horses. These staff are trained and equipped to humanely euthanase horses in very poor condition on the spot. To date we have euthanased 25 horses.
We continue to consult with RSPCA Victoria, local equine vets, key local stakeholders and community members to continue to monitor and review the welfare of the feral horses in Barmah National Park.