The long debate over how to handle populations of wild horses in the Australian Alps continues. While Victoria waits for the outcome to an appeal to a Supreme Court case about Park Victoria’s plan to start culling horses, the issue has come into sharp focus in NSW because of the byelection in the Eden Monaro electorate. The group Reclaim Kosci, which is campaigning to have horses removed from the Kosciuszko National Park has said “If candidates for the Eden-Monaro by-election want to prove they care for the environment, they need to call for action to protect the electorate’s iconic Kosciuszko National Park.”
“Tourism, jobs, catchments, Indigenous heritage, motorist and camper safety, and wildlife are under serious threat.”
It is now two years since the NSW government’s ‘brumby protection bill’ was signed. During this time, according to Reclaim Kosci horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park have risen to their highest level yet.
Reclaim Kosci marked the occasion by reiterating their call for the repeal of the law protecting the feral horse invaders.
They have also brought together an alliance of scientists, farmers (including fifth generation Monaro farmer Peter Davis), former park rangers and environmental groups to reiterate calls for the repeal of the law and the start of horse removal programs.
They say “The 2018 horse law is a failure. In the two years since the controversial bill passed into law the feral horse population has increased by thousands with only 99 horses removed”.
They have issued a report that shows the damage caused by wild horses in plots seven years apart.
The report, Revisiting 2013 Observations of Pest Horse Impacts in the Australian Alps in March 2020, from three protected area specialists who returned to five long-term survey sites earlier this year found that feral horse damage was the “worst ever observed in the 40 years of personal observation.”
The authors identified “unprecedented, pervasive and destructive feral horse impacts” over 43 km of treeless drainage.
Indigenous representative on the Invasive Species Council, Richard Swain, tackled the cultural dimension of the issue:
“the legislated retention of feral horses in Kosciuszko is based on mythical support, supposedly drawn from the famous ‘Man From Snowy River’ poem by Banjo Patterson.
The reality is Banjo himself warned if the early settlers “didn’t get rid of the horses the horses would get rid of them”.
“The wild horses got to be as big a plague as the wallabies and rabbits were in later times,” Banjo said. With the last official count in the park of about 20,000 that plague situation is now here”.
The Invasive Species Council website is available here.
Horse impacted vegetation surrounding exposing bare trampled and compacted soil at the same enclosure that was constructed in 1999with its protected sward of sedges and grasses, Cowombat Flat, Victorian Alpine National Park, Victorian Alpine National Park, 3 March 2020 (Source: Ian Pulsford).