3 June 2024

24-fold increase in annual wild horse removals gives KNP's native animals a chance, conservationists say

| Edwina Mason
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Wild horses

A NSW Upper House inquiry has heard that 8718 wild horses have been removed from Kosciuszko National Park since November 2021, with 5539 of those culled using aerial shooting methods, approved for use in October 2023. Photo: Invasive Species Council.

Conservationists have welcomed new NSW Government data that reveals more wild horses, or brumbies, have been removed from Kosciuszko National Park (KNP) in the past 11 months, since aerial culling methods were introduced, than in the previous 21 years combined.

In evidence tabled at last week’s NSW Upper House inquiry into aerial shooting of wild horses in KNP, the National Parks and Wildlife Association (NPWS) confirmed a total of 8718 wild horses had been culled from the park since November 2021, when the KNP Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan came into force.

But in the past 11 months, of the 7111 wild horses removed, 5539 of those were culled using aerial shooting methods, approved for use in October 2023.

According to the Invasive Species Council (ISC), the figures represent a 24-fold increase in the annual average removal rate of 288 wild horses, since the NSW Government trapping program began in 2003, which saw a total of 6084 horses removed as annual population numbers surged.

ISC advocacy director Jack Gough said that, for the first time, the number of horses removed from the park would exceed the annual growth in horse populations, giving hope a major threat to under-pressure ecosystems was starting to be addressed.

“This is great news for our native animals and mountain streams,” he said. “Of course, there is still a long way to go before our native wildlife will finally be safe and can recover from years of damage.

READ ALSO NPWS employee cleared of misconduct in face of allegations of ‘black market’ trade of KNP’s wild horses

“No-one likes to see animals killed, but the sad reality is that we have a choice to make between urgently reducing the numbers of feral horses or accepting the destruction of sensitive alpine rivers, and the decline and extinction of native animals and their homes.”

The figures also gave rise to confirmation from NPWS Deputy Secretary Atticus Fleming that wild horses would no longer be removed from the four retention areas across KNP.

The current management plan for wild horses imposes a legal obligation on NSW National Parks to carry out control operations to reduce the wild horse population to 3000.

The plan, which falls under the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act (2018), protects the heritage values of the wild horses by retaining populations in 32 per cent of the park.

Mr Fleming told the inquiry the NPWS had given an undertaking (to the NSW Supreme Court) that it would remove only 811 horses from the northern retention area between 9 May and 30 June.

“That number, as of today, a few hours ago, has been reached,” he said. “That means, for our program going forward, until we do our next survey, which is likely October 2024, we won’t be removing any horses from the four retention areas.”

Mr Fleming said, based on advice received from CSIRO, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and the University of New England, the horse population in the retention areas now, with 97.5 per cent certainty, was at least 3712 horses, “so likely much more than that and well above the legal limit or the legal population target still”.

Horse control, Mr Fleming said, would continue in removal areas.

Reclaim Kosci campaign co-founder and Invasive Species Council Indigenous ambassador Richard Swain said the new data should “once and for all end the ridiculous anti-science questioning of the accuracy of the count of feral horses being pushed by fringe groups that do not want to see a single feral horse removed from the national park”.

“Their so-called expert witness, Claire Galea, stated in November 2023 that she’d be ‘amazed if there’s 500 to 600 horses at most’ in the whole national park at that time,” he said. ”Almost 6000 horses have been removed since then, 10 times more than her estimate.”

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Mr Swain also singled out former Member for Monaro Peter Cochran, “[who] stated that there was ‘lucky to be 900 horses’ in the park in July 2021”.

“There have been over 8500 horses removed since he said that,” Mr Swain said.

“For the sake of Country, we all need to move past these ridiculous claims and stick with the peer-reviewed science conducted by experts in wildlife ecology.”

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Jacqui Mumford said the increase in wild horse control gave alpine ecosystems a chance to bounce back.

“Feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park have pushed dozens of threatened flora and fauna species to the brink after their numbers spiralled out of control, including the iconic corroboree frog, the broad-toothed rat and rare alpine orchids,” Ms Mumford said.

“This decision will grant some breathing space to the ecosystems being trampled. We look forward to watching them recover.”

The NSW Government has also confirmed 239,034 feral animals, including pigs, deer and horses, were removed across the state through aerial shooting between July 2021 and June 2023.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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Susan Brittain8:41 am 08 Jun 24

This is all ‘just’ propaganda being fed to an unaware public by Penny Sharpe and the Invasive Species Council. A public funded aerial count have put the number of Brumbys at KNP at 550 & they are still bloody mindedly & barbaricly killing them.They chase Brumbys from the retention zone to the kill zone & kill everything including mares in foal & foals. Most shot at least 7 times and many to suffer a painful lingering death. In the cross fire native and endangered animals are also killed. 1080 poison laid to attract predators which kills dingoes & also kills other predators such as Eagles etc. Penny Sharpe should be sacked! along with ISC who have demonised Brumbys as native species corroboree frogs are dying because of other causes and due to the ISC mismanagement. The Rspca should also be deregulated for not continuing the ban imposed of aerial shooting from the year 2000 and continuing to perpetrate this cruelty.

Vicki Sprowles11:13 am 05 Jun 24

Penny Sharpe should be sacked for not listening to the people she is supposed supposed to represent and for ignoring superior scientific technological count of the horses. This murderous rampage is unconscionable and unforgivable. The next election will see them pay dearly for this atrocity. Shame Australia Shame.

Don Fletcher5:04 pm 05 Jun 24

Ha ha ha, you are joking Vicki Sprowles.

Or are we seriously expected to believe that you:
(a) honestly do not remember that it was not Penny Sharpe, but the Libs-Nats coalition, that made the legal requirement binding on NPWS to reduce the feral horses to 3,000 on 30/6/27? (b) honestly do not remember that a large majority of people wrote submissions supporting what Sharpe is in charge of (and on two occasions no less!)?
(c) honestly do not appreciate that there is MASSIVE consensus of ACTUAL scientists on this issue (eg the Science Accord has over 100 signatures calling for heli-shooting) and
(d) honestly still think that the use of ‘superior scientific technology’ to tell us there were only 569 horses is still credible, when more than 5,000 have been shot already since October?

Susan Brittain8:50 am 08 Jun 24

There are not 3000 left due to a public funded aerial count there are only approx 500 l3ft. The figure given by the Nsw government is over inflated to suck an unknowing public in. On this occassion Penny Sharpe is the Minister responsible! for this heinous act of cruelty etc & should be sacked ISC stood down & RSPCA deregulated

peturbed_but_pretty10:52 pm 04 Jun 24

A very sad outcome, but a very necessary one.

Cheryl Thuillier5:59 pm 04 Jun 24

Disgusting, killing them. Sell them at the sale yards to poor people.

Don Fletcher5:19 pm 05 Jun 24

@Cheryl Thuillier Poor people cant afford to feed and care for 25,000 horses. The racing industry already produces thousands of surplus horses every year and most have to be killed. You might think you are the first person who wants to avoid killing the horses, but the shooting solution was reached only by finding out that the other options were worse.

I don’t think poor people buy meat at the sale yards.

Don Fletcher2:26 pm 06 Jun 24

Ken M no one said poor people buy meat at sale yards. Sale yards sell LIVEstock.

The pro brumby lobby has never been interested in facts or science.

They have 1 agenda – they want the brumbys to be left alone & remain in the park.

They therefore attack, lie, lobby & obfuscate anyone or any evidence that does not support their objective.

Bill Trevillian3:33 pm 04 Jun 24

You talk about facts. Then what about the stats taken that speak of up to seven rounds on average to bring down a horse. Some with part faces and stomach blown away. And evidence of at least one horse in so much pain it dug a pit trying to get up. And what about the fact that many pregnant mares and foals have been targeted as the young deers being shot. What about the fact that horses that have been left to rot near water ways. And other young motherless foals left to fend wild dogs. And what of the horses in a safe place recently viewed that were spooked by sounds of helicopter out of fear.

You see it’s one thing to try and protect fauna that bushfire refurbishes from time to time anyway and another to senselessly and cruelly destroy beautiful animals regardless they are feral or not. Quiet defeats the purpose of preservation you would think.

Stop telling lies, Bill. The horses are shot multiple times to make sure they die quickly. Nobody cares if you like them. They are feral pests.

Don Fletcher9:03 am 05 Jun 24

Correct franky22, ‘They therefore attack, lie, lobby & obfuscate …’ eg even the reply to the quoted comment by Bill Trevallion. Its actually kind of funny (in a twisted way).

Don Fletcher9:11 am 05 Jun 24

Bill Trevallion You do not refer to the peer reviewed scientific literature for information on this topic or you would tell a different story. Instead you are repeating social media lies from other pro-brumby people. Nor have you referred to the legal requirement for these shooters to deliberately over shoot, using multiple shots per horse to ensure there are no wounded horses. It is pathetic.

Don Fletcher6:13 pm 03 Jun 24

Good story thanks Edwina Mason.

All the ‘alternative’ or ‘independent’ counts of KNP horses have always sounded like total rubbish to experts in counting wildlife, BUT NOT NECESSARILY TO LAY PEOPLE, like National MP Wes Fang, quoted in the Riotact article linked below. Likewise with the criticisms of Distance Sampling including those by self-styled ‘independent biostatistician’ Clare Galea (the same Clare Galea who only recently asserted that there were less than 1,000 horses in KNP). Many lay people believed her claims. Only the experts say through them. https://the-riotact.com/independent-high-tech-wild-horse-survey-reveals-one-tenth-the-number-of-horses-in-kosciuszko-national-park/766930

But now that the numbers being culled are more than ten times greater than any of the alternative counts, the alternative counters have lost all credibility. Now any ordinary person can see that the pro-brumby lobby did not have a good grip on reality. Their stinging criticisms of NPWS and Minister Sharpe were soooooooo wrong! These local horse experts believed they were the only ones who knew the truth. It can now be seen by everyone that in fact they were extremely out of touch.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for any admission of that. Instead of humility, what we will get from them now is more fantasy. Like claims that Penny Sharpe has every employee, contractor and independent observer so much under her thumb that she can command them to fake the shooting of thousands of horses, all in order to cover up the claimed NPWS mistakes in counting horses. And none of them will leak the truth. Dream on, Silver Brumby people. Science is like this. Usually the truth wins through in the end.

Don, anybody who goes into KNP and gets off the main road knew that these “independent” counts were nonsense. Go for a drive out the back of Tantangara on the Port Phillip fire trail and back to the highway, and you saw multiple large mobs of them. We counted over 60 in a single mob. I reckon between the top of Tantangara dam and the highway I saw over 1000 horses some days, and that’s just what could be seen off a single road in a tiny fraction of the park.

Bill Trevillian2:34 pm 04 Jun 24

I doubt whether any of this has to do with numbers. Even though from what I am seeing from the independent count done recently was far less then the butcher Sharp was promoting. Because if any of this has to do with fauna then why are there majors green energy projects to be completed in the Kosciuszko national park, with a massive wind farm and large battery I presume. This to my thinking if that be the case, then would be an excuse to eradicate these horses in the most inhumane way they see fit. Which I find quite disgusting that any would support this carnage.

Yes exactly Don,
I made the same point at the time, that if the pro Brumby counts were real, the aerial shooting program would fail due to lack of numbers.

The most recent data completely destroys their arguments about the numbers of horses in KNP, but you will never see them admit it.

There’s a lot of wasted protein running around in KNP doing just as much if not more damage as the brumbies, deer, pig, goat and rabbits. You could even knock a few more roo’s.

Buy a bow like everybody else to enjoy the bounties of KNP.

Don Fletcher6:25 pm 03 Jun 24

Shack G, there are far less goats than 20 years ago. And the deer counts show that deer species combined are far less numerous (as well as individually smaller) than the feral horses. (Maybe because deer, pigs and goats have been heli-shot for years). So your claim that horses do less damage than deer, pigs, goats and rabbits seems unlikely. And what research has been done on impacts tends to show horses as the big problem, but of course they ALL should be controlled.

Retaining a population of feral pests in a national park will never not be ridiculous.

Yes; but fantasies fed by members of the squatocracy grasping past glories – and people who read a poem or saw a movie – have so much influence in public affairs!

Yes – they should all be removed. We seem to value big animals over small animals, and flora. We have to hope that the large numbers of removals will help the decision-makers see sense and to take it to the ultimate removal of all the horses.

Vicki Sprowles11:23 am 05 Jun 24

Penny Sharpe should be sacked for both ignoring the people she is supposed to represent and for ignoring the latest scientific technologically advanced count of the horses. This murderous slaughter was based on a bad guess by ignorant people and is unforgivable and unconscionable. What a senseless loss of precious life. There will be a huge backlash at the next election. They will pay dearly for this. My memory is long and vengeance will be mine.

I have personally counted more horses than that “technologically advanced count” in 1 day, without getting off the track, in a tiny section of the park, Vicki. You’re telling lies to the wrong person.

Susan Brittain9:05 am 08 Jun 24

The public funded aerial count and authenticated opposing biostatician do not lie. The government on the other hand have demonised and over inflated Brumby population. If for nothing else people should be calling out this heinous cruelty against a heritage horse that should be protected. I see a lot of comments written here that seem to believe the Labor, penny sharpe, invasive species council spiel and propaganda and i wonder if they are on board. Penny Sharpe ISC & Rspca are now all under investigation & if! a lawful verdict is reached, as it should be they all should be sacked

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