A post-bushfire plan to remove feral horses from three areas in Kosciuszko National Park announced by the NSW government will be an important step towards recovery. 

“With the eyes of the world watching how our bushfire-impacted wildlife is fighting for survival it appears the NSW government is listening,” said Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox.

The NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, supported by the state’s deputy premier John Barilaro, has backed a plan developed by a community panel and a scientific panel to put in place immediate measures to clear feral horses from some of the most sensitive areas of the park.

The panels had been tasked prior to the bushfires with producing a plan under the divisive Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act by May 2020.

“This announcement of urgent interim measures is a good sign of the government’s genuine commitment to drive horse numbers down,” Mr Cox said.

“The NSW environment minister still needs to quickly release details of the three horse-free areas, areas believed to harbour about 4000 feral horses last year.

“Deputy Premier John Barilaro released a statement yesterday seeking a permanent population of 3000 horses in the park. Settling on a number for all of the park at this stage pre-empts the work of the panels and may prove to be environmentally unsustainable.

“We welcome Matt Kean’s commitment to keep all humane control options on the table. For these interim measures, the reliance on trapping, along with the new method of aerial mustering, will make it hard to remove large numbers of horses, especially in remote areas.

“The proposed monitoring program will be essential to trigger action if the removal plan fails.

“The park’s feral horse population, estimated to be about 20,000 in early 2019, appears relatively unscathed from the fires.

“In fact the fires that burnt 35 per cent of the park appear to have pushed the horses into a more concentrated area, increasing the trampling of wetlands, habitat of critically endangered species like the northern corroboree frog and the stocky galaxias fish.

“Horses are also returning to burnt areas following the recent rains. This will cause irreparable damage to burnt peat bogs and recovering alpine and sub-alpine vegetation.”

Federal environment minister Sussan Ley said on ABC radio last week: “…if they take an approach that horses need to be removed from those areas, personally I would support that … we have to treat the horses humanely and we have to recognise that they have a contribution to make somewhere else in the state.”

“Kosciuszko National Park was designated a national park more than 75 years ago to protect native species and water catchments from the impacts of stock animals,” Mr Cox said.

“Letting the national park become a government-sanctioned home for large numbers of horses would be a massive betrayal of the graziers whose land was resumed and a massive betrayal of community expectations that the national park would be protected in perpetuity.”


For comment

  • Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council CEO, Mob: 0438 588 040.

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