12 October 2021

9000 wild brumbies to be culled from Kosciuszko National Park under proposed management plan

| James Coleman
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Wild brumbies at Currango Plain in Kosciuszko National Park

Wild brumbies at Currango Plain in Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: Supplied.

The number of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park would be slashed under a new proposed plan to manage their population and the impact they have on the region’s alpine wilderness – but don’t expect any aerial shooting.

The Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan proposes to remove or cull about 9000 wild horses, or brumbies, during the course of six years.

The latest government figures put the estimated number of brumbies in Kosciuszko National Park at 14,380, which experts say is far too many heavy hooves for the sensitive alpine ecosystem.

The scientific evidence is that the current numbers are causing severe damage faster than it can be naturally repaired but the brumbies’ place in the high country is a contentious issue, with advocates arguing the numbers are inflated and removal is not necessarily the answer.

READ ALSO Tallong residents coordinate rescue of brumbies and call for government incentives

Impacts include trampling the fragile subalpine ecosystem, eroding waterways and destroying key habitat for threatened species such as the northern corroboree frog and stocky galaxias fish.

Such is the negative environmental impact, wild horses have been formally recognised as a Key Threatening Process according to the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

Wild brumbies at Currango Plains in Kosciuszko National Park

Wild brumbies as seen from the air in Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: Supplied.

In response, the new draft management plan allows for a “sustainable wild horse population” of 3000 to remain in 32 per cent of the park by 30 June, 2027. The 47 per cent of the park that is already free of brumbies would be kept that way.

The NSW Government’s last draft strategy, in 2016, called for the population of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park to be reduced by 90 per cent over 20 years. But this was opposed by then NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro and was never implemented.

Instead, he introduced the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act in 2018 – the first law to protect an introduced species in a national park to the detriment of native species.

NSW Minister for the Environment Matt Kean says the draft plan is trying to strike a balance between protecting the park’s environment and recognising the cultural heritage value of wild horses.

Another law rules out the aerial culling of horses in NSW national parks.

This was put in place in October 2020, following drought, when a widespread cull of the largely starving brumby population garnered national media attention, and public consensus quickly turned against shooting horses from helicopters.

Kosciuszko National Park

The Kosciuszko National Park alpine ecosystem is being destroyed by wild horses faster than it can naturally repair itself. Photo: Mike Bremers.

Conservation groups still maintain that aerial culling is the only practical method for quick, large-scale and humane culling of large animals in inaccessible locations.

The RSPCA also supports professionally managed aerial culling of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park, saying that trapping and transporting horses for slaughter causes more suffering than a bullet.

According to the new management plan, culling measures would include a mix of aerial mustering, trapping and ground shooting.

Removing wild horses from alpine areas of Kosciusko National Park has been an ongoing task since 2002. Kosciuszko land managers first identified the need to control the increasing brumby herds in the late 1990s when their numbers were estimated at 2000.

The term ‘brumby’ is attributed to Sergeant James Brumby, who left his horses to run free on his land in NSW when he was transferred to Tasmania in the 1830s.

READ ALSO The irony of the brumby and Snowy 2.0 sharing the same backyard

Across eastern Australia, wild horse numbers have increased massively since then, and Australia now has the largest population of wild horses in the world, with more than 300,000.

Minister Kean said he recognises there are very strong and diverse views on this issue.

“But at the heart of these views is a common desire to sustainably manage the park for the future,” he said.

The draft Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan is now available for community feedback until 2 November, 2021, and can be viewed here.

Minister Kean will consider the draft plan, along with any submissions and advice, before making any necessary changes and deciding whether to adopt the plan under the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018.

Original Article published by James Coleman on About Regional.

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I am shocked and dismayed that the RSPCA has endorsed one of the methods that would cause panic and mayhem and distress to the animals. The very thing that their own guidelines prohibit. Ironic? Hypocritical? Sadly, very much so.

They’ll struggle to get their quota of 9,000 – lucky to be half that in all of the KNP.

Stephen Saunders8:33 pm 14 Oct 21

Kean is a huge hypocrite, hyping “net zero emissions” in the posh suburbs, at the same time as this hostile horse plan for hicks.

Three thousand pest horses are to be curated over 32% of the park until 2027. Mountain pygmy possum – and many other threatened species – would love to have that level of protection.

Capital Retro3:11 pm 14 Oct 21

It’s ironic that we tolerate large scale native Kangaroo culling in our own backyard but we find doing the same thing to feral horses to save our Alpine environment is repugnant.

It’s also risible that a lot of Australians (not the large numbers the Austrlalia Insitute have declared) want action on climate change where there is no visible or proven damage being caused yet the same people appear to excuse the feral horses for the massive damage they are causing.

The proposed cull should be extended to feral goats, pigs and feral deer also. I think the foxes and wild dogs will never be exterminated but they could be controlled more.

I hate that this is necessary. I leaned to ride through Legacy. And have always loved horses.

But, the alpine landscape is not adapted to horses hooves.

So the Brumbies cause a lot of damage to the ecology of Alpine zones.

The vast majority of Kosciuszko and much of the Brindabella Range that flows south into it is ‘alpine bog’.

Wet and soft, and evolved with just wallabies and wombats as the biggest and heaviest animals living on it. I know this because I hunted in the Brindabellas and Long-Plain – with permissions – for feral pigs and feral (wild dogs).

ChrisinTurner2:30 pm 14 Oct 21

Unless the 9000 are culled almost immediately it will become a never ending task. The numbers should be reduced to 300 maximum. Private citizens should be encouraged to set up a sanctuary on private land if they want to look at them in the wild.

Chrisin without a ‘t’!?

I absolutely agree with you, but am not happy about it, see above.

Feral animals in Australia are a serious threat to our few remaining native environments.

Sporrts hunting is unable to control this problem. So that culling is the only option.

Dear Sir… Are you a local? Have you seen 9,000 brumbies in the park? I think not. The passive trapping have already removed over 900 brumbies from the park. There never has been 14,000 horses in the park. The most recent surveys conducted by independents clearly show that less than 1,000 horses remain in an area that is 6 million acres. Prior to the anti horse brigade insisting on culling, no one really cared about what animal lived in the park. Particularly those that have been enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the environment for over 150 years. 90% of the brumby population have been successfully rehomed. Many of the horses also perished along with the native animals. However being an indigenous person. An elder was once asked what is the definition of an Australian Native Animal? His response was ‘One that has been born here’. You would be lucky to see a brumby now in the KNP. With all due respects: You have your facts confused.

Methinks JMCregan does not understand what ‘symbiotic’ means.

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