Wild horses, along with other feral species, have inflicted enormous damage on the alpine and sub alpine environments of the Australian Alps for decades.

There has been a long campaign to have numbers of horses reduced, which has been resisted by people who claim the horses have a ‘cultural’ claim to be in the mountains.

However, the current NSW government has continually failed to act to protect the NSW High Country, by refusing to support horse removal programs. (In a surprise move, the NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, recently announced that ‘about’ 4,000 feral horses will be removed from Kosciuszko national park as ‘part of an emergency response to protect the alpine ecosystem after large areas were devastated by bushfires’).

One of the key points used by opponents of horse removal is the claim that numbers of horses are inflated by proponents of removal. This has been a dominant argument used by pro brumby groups in both NSW and Victoria. Conservation group Reclaim Kosci has just released information received through a Freedom of Information request, which shows the size – and growth – of the horse population in the Northern Snowies.

The following information is taken from the Reclaim Kosci media release on the issue.

There’s no denying the truth. Figures released today under FOI reiterate the fact that Kosciuszko horse numbers are climbing, and a solution is desperately needed.

The new figures, obtained by Reclaim Kosci under NSW Freedom of Information laws, show that the feral horse herd swelled from 2,144 to 3,110 between June 2017 and September 2019 – IN JUST ONE SECTION of northern Kosciuszko National Park.

That’s an increase of 966 destructive horses in northern Kosciuszko just over two years – or a whopping 45 percent.

There are more than 20,000 feral horses across the whole of Kosciuszko National Park, and this number was largely unaffected by last summer’s bushfires.

Data source: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
Feral horse management looms as a major issue in the lead-up to this Saturday’s Eden-Monaro federal by-election, with independent polling commissioned by The Australia Institute showing that the majority of local voters want horses removed.

The feral horses chew the delicate alpine vegetation to the ground and trample streams and bogs with their hard hooves, destroying the unique alpine landscape and turning the park into a paddock.

“The more feral horses, the more this iconic Australian national park is being degraded beyond recognition. It’s that simple,” Reclaim Kosci campaigner Anthony Sharwood said.

“In 2018, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro pushed through the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act, an unprecedented piece of legislation which enshrined in law the protection of a feral animal in a national park.

“Mr Barilaro recently called for a recount of feral horses in the park. Well, here are the numbers – a 45 percent increase in two years in just one small part of Kosciuszko.

“We know that the fires which scorched a third of Kosciuszko National Park last summer had almost no impact on the overall herd, and we know that they just keep breeding and feeding.

“The plants, rivers and wildlife of Kosciuszko can’t cope in the face of an onslaught of 80,000 hooves.

“Rare, beautiful creatures like the corroboree frogs are now on life support in plastic peat moss containers at the threatened species recovery program at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

“If the explosion in feral horse numbers is not swiftly controlled, that’s the only place you’ll be able to see them.”

Source: Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
>> Download the latest horse count map

The annual aerial count conducted by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service records horses sighted over selected open plains in northern Kosciuszko National Park.




I’ve been getting a few people posting that the numbers are incorrect. Please note: if you feel aggrieved by the stats, please take it up with the Parks Service and the Dept Planning, Industry and Environment. These figures were released through Freedom of Information and are government figures. Getting cross at me for posting them here doesn’t change that.