An operation to remove wild horses from the northern end of Kosciuszko National Park remains ongoing, with almost 300 horses having been removed so far.
The removal operation was first announced earlier this year, with the state government announcing their plan to remove all wild horses from the Nungar plain and reduce the population to “sustainable levels” in Cooleman and Kiandra plains.
These interim measures are confined to the northern end of the Park, which makes up nine percent of its total area. Around 90 per cent of the Nungar and Kiandra plains are reported to have been impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires, whilst 10 per cent of the Cooleman plain suffered damage.
The state government’s goal is to remove 4000 wild horses from the three areas.
The removal operation was first announced as an emergency post-fire response to protect the environment, and it was described as the largest removal of horses in the Park’s history.
Brumby advocates have contested the number of horses in the park, calling for a population recount and a stop to the removal operation.
Environment Minister Matt Kean has agreed to bring forward a recount of horse numbers in the northern end of the park, however despite court action by brumby advocates in the Land and Environment Court, the removal operation was given the all-clear to continue.
A National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) spokesperson has confirmed that as of November 27, 281 horses have been removed from the northern end of the Park.
“The priority continues to be to rehome horses removed from the park, with the support of rehoming groups and individuals,” the spokesperson said.
95 per cent of those horses removed have been rehomed, according to the spokesperson, with any wild horses that are not rehomed sent to the knackery.
Online brumby rehoming groups show that the Kosciuszko horses have been rehomed across the country, as far as North Queensland and parts of Victoria as well as locally in New South Wales.
Per NPWS guidelines, applicants have to take on a minimum of five horses. This often leads to rehoming groups taking on a large number of horses and then on-selling them individually.
One such individual is Nikki Alberts of Adaminaby, who runs White Alpine Equine. She houses some of her own horses at her property and since 2018 has taken in groups of brumbies on a number of occasions.
“We bring them in to handle them and rehome them, so think of it as like a halfway house,” she explained.
Ms Alberts also has a corporate career and took a break from rehoming brumbies until the removal operation in the KNP began this year.
“When they started the captures again this year, we took in a family of six because I specifically didn’t want them to separate mares and the herd stallion as they found them, and we’ve since had two foals and one on the way very shortly,” she said.
Ms Alberts said the process of rehoming the group was straightforward; having rescued before, she was able to put in a request form with NPWS demonstrating she had the appropriate facilities and knowledge to take them on.
“It’s hard to find homes for them; not everyone has the yard,” she explained. “People are quite keen to get the weanlings and the easy to handle ones, and the older ones sometimes miss out because of that.”
All six of the brumbies Ms Alberts took on from the KNP have been rehomed. The stallion, mare and one of the foals are going together to the north of Newcastle, a young mare is going to the north of Canberra and the weanling has been adopted by a tourist cabin at Lake Jindabyne.
Ms Alberts said she is “overjoyed, but sad at the same time” to see them go.
“I think [brumbies] add so much value to not only the mountains, with keeping some of the forage down and helping with bushfire prone areas, but they’re also so tied into our history as well,” she said.
When asked about the current removal operation, Ms Alberts said it is a “better alternative” to what is happening in Victoria, where ground culling is taking place.
“It’s frustrating that they have said yes, they need to do a recount, but they’ve continued the capture this year; they normally stop after the October long weekend,” she said.
“And to me, if a commitment was made to do a recount, then stop your capture.”
Caiti Bolden, who lives on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga, rehomed a KNP brumby a few months ago, naming him ‘Chase.’
“I was ready to take on a new project, so I had a look on Facebook for any unhandled brumbies that were going,” she explained.
Ms Bolden found an ad for a brumby and decided to rehome it, realising it was the same one that had previously caught her eye in a paddock she drove past each day on her way to work.
She has rehomed brumbies in the past, and said she likes working with unhandled horses because they’re like a “blank slate.”
“You are the first person that they’ve experienced, so they don’t really have any hang ups or past trauma or any sort of habits you’ve got to get around,” Ms Bolden said.
“I have also found that brumbies are incredibly smart and once they bond with a person, they’re yours for life.”
Ms Alberts and Ms Bolden both said they would consider rehoming more brumbies in the future.
“I’m definitely dreaming of when I can save up and buy my own property so I can take on more brumbies,” Ms Bolden said.
After speaking to The Times, Ms Alberts put in another request with NPWS for five more horses after hearing that rehoming applications are slowing down.