There has been a long struggle to get feral horse numbers managed properly across the mountains of south eastern Australia. The ACT, NSW and Victoria all manage the issue differently, but in NSW the need to manage numbers of feral animals has been caught up in a culture war narrative that has slowed and blocked meaningful action for many years.
The recent release of feral horse removal data for Kosciuszko National Park since February 2022 has highlighted the need to significantly increase removal efforts to protect one of Australia’s most important national parks.
In a media release, the Invasive Species Council and Reclaim Kosci said:
Data published by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service noted that 334 feral horses were removed from the park between February and June this year.
‘This is an important start, but if we are to protect the environmental values of Kosciuszko, we need to increase feral horse removal efforts significantly,’ Invasive Species Council Conservation Director James Trezise said.
‘With more than 14,000 horses in the park and the population growing by about 20 per cent every year, this rate of removals is nowhere near what’s needed to keep up with breeding rates.
‘This means that the feral horse population in Kosciuszko is continuing to grow which has dire implications for native wildlife and ecosystems in the park.
‘The final feral horse plan released last year equipped park managers with an increased suite of control measures, including both trapping and ground shooting.
‘It’s important to make sure that there are appropriate procedures in place for these control measures and that they meet animal welfare standards. It is understandable that developing these has slowed initial control efforts, but significantly more feral horses will need to be removed from the park to meet the plan’s objectives and safeguard the park’s environment.
‘Last week’s State of the Environment Report highlighted the increasing threats to Australia’s native wildlife and ecosystems, especially from invasive species. Feral horses do a huge amount of damage to Kosciuszko’s fragile alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems, which did not evolve with large hard-hoofed animals. There are sphagnum wetlands that are more than 4000 years old in the park, yet these can be irreversibly damaged in less than a week by a large herd of feral horses,’ Mr Trezise said.
The update provided by NSW NPWS also highlights the ongoing disruption to operations from feral horse activists.
‘It is disappointing, but not surprising, to read of continued threats and vandalism directed towards parks staff and assets. It is vital that NSW Police treat these escalating threats seriously,’ Mr Trezise said.