The biannual Kaimanawa horse muster has been successfully completed, with the operation coming to a close on Thursday 29 May with the muster of 172 horses.
The muster operation, which is necessary to control herd numbers, takes place on the Waiouru Military Training Area, and involves a great deal of support and co-operation from the New Zealand Defence Forces.
The wider community is also actively involved, with partner organisations such as the Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Trust and the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society integral in re-homing 157 of the mustered horses. “This is a fantastic result, and is due reward for the hard work put in by these groups to find homes for mustered horses”, says Dave Lumley, Conservation Services Manager for the Department.
The management approach for the horses aims to keep herd numbers in the management area to 300. This is to ensure the healthy condition of both the ecologically sensitive habitats within the training area and the horses themselves. “At times in the past horse numbers have greatly exceeded 300, with the result there was considerable impact to the fragile wetland and alpine ecosystems in the area”, says Dave.
“By managing both the numbers of horses as well as where the horses can roam, impacts on the environment are minimised, and there is more food for the remaining horses, so we don’t see horses in poor condition out here now either.”
Prior to the muster the Department discusses its plans with the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group. Membership includes the SPCA, Forest & Bird, NZ Veterinary Association, NZ Defence Force, Oruamatua Kaimanawa Trust, Kaimanawa Heritage Horses and the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society. The advisory group supports the Department’s plans and takes an active interest in the long-term welfare of the horses.
A helicopter skillfully mustering Kaimanawa wild horses