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Parks Victoria advise that time is ‘running out’ to save the Alpine National Park

Parks Victoria advise that time is ‘running out’ to save the Alpine National Park
April 8, 2021

Parks Victoria has advised that Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 have wiped out large areas of habitat in the Alpine National Park and the areas less-affected by fire now provide the critical intact habitats for threatened native alpine wildlife species.

In an online article, the Victorian Government agency state that rare and endangered plants on the National Park’s high treeless plains have never been so vulnerable and that the risk of species extinctions is very real in the context of a warming and drying climate, increased fire frequency, weed invasion, predation and habitat destruction caused by introduced species.

Parks Victoria advise “the high-altitude peaks and plains of the Australian Alps are rare, representing just 0.3% of the area of this flat, dry and hot continent.

“Alpine animals, plants and ecosystems have evolved and adapted over millions of years to survive in the high plains of the Alpine National Park (and) many don’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Referring to the pressures on threatened native alpine wildlife species such as the alpine she-oak skink, alpine tree frog and alpine spiny crayfish, Parks Victoria also highlight that “horses, deer and other feral animals are causing more damage than ever before to these species and natural places”, noting “each day that passes increases the risk that remaining native vegetation will be lost, with alpine waterways and wetlands becoming muddied trampled pits, destroying the water filtering mechanism and slow-release roles that peatlands play.”

Parks Victoria hope that the removal of feral animals and weeds, and management of these unburnt refuges, will make this landscape more resilient to other climate-related threats and save the lives of countless native plants and animals - regularly undertaking programs to manage deer, pigs and other non-native species using a range of control techniques.

However, it fears that the window to remove horses, deer and other feral animals is closing, with a Parks Victoria spokesperson stating “the high numbers of feral horses in the Alpine area continue to cause damage to the unique Australian alps.

“Increased knowledge and experience are allowing us to build the best approach to managing feral horse populations and reduce the threats they bring to our special high country native wildlife and habitats.”-

Parks Victoria feels that feral horse management is a critical need in an integrated approach to reducing the total impacts caused by introduced animals in the Alpine National Park.

A number of legal challenges, limited interest in rehoming horses and worsening environmental conditions (increasing horse numbers and the Black Summer bushfires) have limited the planned outcomes of the 2018-21 Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan, due to finish in June 2021.

At the end of last month, the agency released a draft action plan outlining feral horse management intentions over the next 10 years, aimed to increase the removal of feral horses from the Alpine National Park and improve the survival outlook for native alpine wildlife, plants and habitats.

The draft action plan outlines the preferred methods of managing feral horses, including trapping and rehoming, tightly managed shooting and construction of exclusion fences, with goals to improve environmental condition and improve threatened species survival.

The spokesperson added “we have revised our management practices, bringing in additional methods to help reduce feral horse numbers while aiming to maximize the numbers captured and rehomed.

“We are releasing the draft plan to provide people with the opportunity to review our updated approach and give us honest and constructive feedback.”

The draft Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 is available for public feedback on the Engage Victoria website until Friday 23rd April.

Click here to view the draft plan.

Images: The fire impacted hills of Dinner Plain, just over one year after the Black Summer bushfires (top, credit: Parks Victoria), the critically endangered Alpine Tree Frog (Litoria verreauxii alpina) is one of the native species that Parks Victoria sees will benefit from feral horse control (middle, credit: David Paul, Museums Victoria) and  the threatened Alpine Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus crassus) lives in alpine streams. It cannot survive in muddy and channelised streams that are trampled and polluted with horse manure (below).

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4th January 2020 - Bushfire crisis sees Victorian alpine resorts among areas declared state of disaster

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2nd April 2020 - WIRES and Landcare Australia partner in $1million post-bushfire wildlife habitat regeneration

17th February 2020 - Parks Victoria collaborates to protect historic huts from bushfires

6th February 2020 - Extensive bushfire damage prevents Selwyn Snow Resort opening for 2020 season

8th October 2016 - Visits to the Great Barrier Reef an example of ‘last chance tourism’

18th October 2020 - Two in five of the world’s plant species at risk of extinction

5th January 2020 - Bushfires push numerous Australian animal species towards extinction

11th December 2019 - Latest IUCN reports that a quarter of eucalypt trees are threatened with extinction

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