A new count of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park announced by NSW environment minister Matt Kean today is a win for Kosciuszko: it will allow emergency horse removal to continue while improving confidence there remains a horse population crisis despite the devastating bushfires.
Minister Matt Kean announced on Sydney radio station 2GB today that the National Parks and Wildlife Service would conduct a new count of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park to better manage the park.
“I think to give the community confidence that what we’re doing is the right thing, we’ll bring that count forward,” Minister Kean told 2GB’s Ray Hadley.
Crucially, the announcement of a new count does not affect the current emergency bushfire horse removal in three extremely sensitive areas of northern Kosciuszko, which will continue after being temporarily delayed due to failed action by horse advocates in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
“There are three very sensitive areas of the park – that’s nine percent of the park – where we want to manage some of the horses out,” Minister Kean said.
“So we’ll manage these sensitive areas… but we’ll do a full recount in the interim.”
Reclaim Kosci supports Minister Kean’s announcement of a new count, as well as the continued trapping, removal (and potential rehoming) of horses in the ecologically sensitive areas where horses have congregated post-fires.
“A science-based count that confirms numbers in Kosciuszko National Park while allowing horse removal is welcomed,” Reclaim Kosci spokesperson Anthony Sharwood said.
“Let’s continue with the current post-fires removal of horses, let’s get the recount done, and let’s then put in place a long-term management plan for the horses.
“In the last five years, horse numbers have been increasing at around 20 percent in Kosciuszko. Horse numbers are now so high that any delayed action on their management means we’ve got a bigger problem, year after year, with more of Kosciuszko’s crystal clear streams turned to mudheaps and its incredibly rare plants trampled by hard hooves.”
In 2018, NSW deputy premier John Barilaro introduced the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act. The Act contains provisions for horse management, and Mr Barilaro is on record before the 2019 election saying he would reduce numbers immediately by 50 per cent. This currently equates to around 10,000 horses, as the estimate of horses in Kosciuszko is around 20,000.
The new horse management plan was due for public comment six months ago, in February 2020, but is still under preparation.
“It is becoming increasingly urgent to remove many more horses in other fragile areas of Kosciuszko,” Mr Sharwood said.
“Even Ray Hadley today today stated that, ‘No one disagrees that there should be a cull’.
“That’s why Mr Barilaro should just let NPWS get on with the job.”
Meanwhile Reclaim Kosci joins Minister Kean condemning images circulating over the weekend which show horse skulls on display outside an NPWS depot which are believed to have been placed there by a former parks employee.
“There is no place for the harm or cruelty or gloating about any living being,” Minister Kean said.
Reclaim Kosci supports the minister’s comments on animal cruelty.
HIGH COUNTRY ICON OR PEST?
- During the time of the legend of the Man from Snowy River, it is believed there were only ever 200 wild horses in the Australian Alps.
- There are now about 25,000 ferals, with numbers more than doubling in the last five years.
- The feral horses chew delicate alpine vegetation closely to the ground and trample streams and bogs with their hard hooves, destroying the delicate alpine landscape and silting up rivers which millions of Australians rely on for irrigation and drinking water.
- Feral horse numbers are highest in New South Wales, where NSW deputy premier John Barilaro pushed through the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act in 2018.
- This unprecedented legislation enshrines in law the rights of a feral animal to degrade a pristine, iconic Australian landscape which is as important and fragile as the Great Barrier Reef.