Gull Rock National Park horse trail puts rare Queen of Sheeba orchid ‘at risk’ and enthusiasts are outraged

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Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
An Eastern Queen of Sheeba found by Terry Dunham in the Stirling Range National Park this week.
Camera IconAn Eastern Queen of Sheeba found by Terry Dunham in the Stirling Range National Park this week.

Orchid enthusiasts have expressed outrage over a horse trail that runs through a known habitat of the rare Queen of Sheba orchid

Gull Rock National Park is one of the few locations where the bright-purple flower can be found.

A photo of the marked horse trails was shared on the Western Australian Native Orchids Facebook page, sparking an angry response.

Group administrator and WA Native Orchids Conservation and Study Group member Terry Dunham, said he had seen the orchid grow in that spot many times over the years and he was worried horses would destroy the population.

“Someone surveyed all of the Queen of Sheebas in that area last year and documented the spots, so I went and checked where the trails are and one is exactly where they grow,” he said.

“There were 300-odd plants of the endangered plants found there last year.

“The track is an overgrown vehicle track that has been there for years.

“The orchids grow there and I have never seen a horse there before.

“The horses are going to drop their dung which is full of phosphorous.”

Mr Dunham said last year’s survey was held after the destruction of a similar habitat in the area by a bobcat.

“It is a hotspot for the orchid and it needs to be preserved and protected,” he said.

“They are a big part of tourism and people come from across the world to see them.”

He has spotted buds for the Queen of Sheeba in the area which will flower soon.

He found the orchids flowering in the Stirling Range National Park this week.

However, a Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions spokeswoman said the trails in the national park were not new additions.

“Horses have been permitted in Gull Rock National Park for many years, in line with the Albany Coast Parks and Reserves Management Plan,” she said.

“The horse trails are pre-existing, with no new trails having been built, however, they have recently been formalised with signage to allow for improved control of the user group.

“Horses are only allowed on designated trails and are confined to less than 20 per cent of the national park.”

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