An annual count of the Kaimanawa horses on NZ Army managed areas and adjacent private land has confirmed that herd is robust and maintaining its numbers.
Taupo-nui-a-tia Area manager Dave Lumley said that in 2010 the managed herd on the Waiouru Military Training Area was reduced to about 300 horses after having been held at around 500 since 1997. “The herd reduction was undertaken after consultation with the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory group representing a large proportion of groups interested in the future of the herd”.
Mr Lumley noted that after a breeding season the managed herd has now grown to 340 – 350 representing a growth rate of between 16.4% and 19.9%. He commented that “this growth rate is within the range of that observed for the herd over the last 20+ years and confirms that the reduction in herd size has not jeopardised the vigour of the herd”.
“It is expected that the herd will have grown to in excess of 400 by autumn 2012 at which time a muster is planned to return the herd to about 300, he said. The reduction of the herd was undertaken to reduce the cost of managing the herd for both DOC and the voluntary organisations that assist. Also, in the long term, the smaller herd size will reduce the number of older horses that are fated to be sent to an abattoir when they cannot be found a new home. Simply, the reduced herd size reduces the surplus animals produced each year.”
Away from the managed herd the count revealed a stable population of horses on private land to the east of training area and 18 horses located in areas we are attempting to keep free of horses because of the risk they pose to either public safety or ecological values. Mr Lumley said that these horses will be monitored and may be removed if their threat increases.
The herd will be counted again in April 2012 and the information from that count will be used to set the targets for the 2012 muster.
Two recent field trips to view the horses with members of the public generated favourable comment on the condition of both the horses and the habitat Mr Lumley said “and that is great to hear as having both in good condition is the principal goal of our management”
Mr Lumley also said that the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group had recently been briefed on progress with research into contraception options for feral horses in the USA. “The group and the Department would continue to monitor these advances with the thought that they may provide an alternative to mustering.” he said.