24-fold increase in annual feral horse removals

THE  Invasive Species Council, the NSW Public Service Association (PSA), the National Parks Association of NSW, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and the Biodiversity Council have welcomed new data from the NSW Government which reveals that more feral horses have been removed from Kosciuszko National Park in the past 11 months (7,111) than in the previous 21 years combined (6,047).

This is a 24-fold increase on the average rate of 288 feral horses removed from Kosciuszko National park each year over the previous 21 years.

In evidence to the NSW Parliament, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service confirmed that 8,718 feral horses were removed from Kosciuszko National Park between November 2021, when the current management plan commenced, and 22 May 2024. 

Of these, 5,539 have been removed using aerial shooting, which was approved for use in October 2023.

Invasive Species Council Advocacy director Jack Gough, said:

‘In the past 11 months 7,111 feral horses have been removed from Kosciuszko National Park, which is more than in the previous 21 years combined.

‘This is great news for our native animals and mountain streams. For the first time the number removed exceeds annual population growth, meaning we can expect a genuine reduction in the number of feral horses in the National Park.

‘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.

‘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.’

Organiser with the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) said :

‘The PSA thanks Premier Minns and Minister Sharpe for backing our National Parks staff who have conducted their operations professionally, safely and humanely.

‘Aerial culling by highly trained professionals is the only viable way of reducing numbers and saving the national park and our native animals that live there.’

‘The ongoing harassment, abuse and intimidation of National Parks staff by some extreme individuals must cease. Our members are simply doing their job on behalf of the community and the PSA will continue to support them and condemn such behaviour.’

Gary Dunnett, National Parks Association of NSW CEO said:

‘This huge increase in the rate of feral horse removals reflects the recent approval of aerial shooting and the ongoing commitment of Labor, the Liberals and the Greens to urgently reduce the thousands of feral horses trashing and trampling Kosciuszko National Park.

‘Unfortunately, years of delays and inaction have meant thousands more feral horses have had to be killed as the population has grown out of control.’

Richard Swain, local Snowy River guide, founder of the Reclaim Kosci campaign and Invasive Species Council Indigenous ambassador, said:

‘These figures 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.

‘Former Nationals MP and One Nation candidate Peter Cochrane stated that there was “lucky to be 900 horses” in the park in July 2021. There have been over 8,500 horses removed since he said that.

‘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 feral horse control gives our precious 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.

Background notes:

• A November 2023 NSW government survey of feral horse numbers found that there are about 17,393 feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park (with a 95% confidence interval of between 12,797 and 21,760).  This is an increase from about 6,000 feral horses in 2014. 

• According to the NSW Government evidence on 23 May 2024 to the NSW Legislative Council, 8,718 feral horses were removed from Kosciuszko National Park between November 2021, when the current management plan commenced, and 22 May 2024. Of these, 6,179 have been removed since the last population count in October 2023 and 5,539 have been removed using aerial shooting, which was approved in October 2023. 

• National Parks staff undertake feral horse control work professionally, humanely, and safely. This has been confirmed by two independent animal welfare reviews of NSW feral horse control operations which found that:

– Animal welfare outcomes are prioritised and are better than predicted, as confirmed by independent veterinary observations.

– There was no evidence of non-kill shots having been taken.

– Standard Operating Procedures are rigorously followed, and all personnel have welfare as a priority. 

• Trapping and rehoming of feral horses has been used in Kosciuszko National Park for well over a decade but has consistently failed to reduce the population, has delayed meaningful action and is expensive. There are too many feral horses in the Alps and not enough demand for rehoming for it to be relied upon for the reduction of the population.

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