A 20-year analysis of feral horse counts in Kosciuszko National Park provides compelling evidence NSW’s so-called ‘horse removal program’ has been an abysmal failure and without decisive action the population will continue to grow and suffer needlessly.
The analysis, conducted by respected ecologist Dr Don Fletcher for the Reclaim Kosci campaign, also reveals feral horse abundance in the park has increased at 18 per cent a year from 2003 to 2020.
“The NSW Government has solid scientific information revealing an alarming trend of unrestrained horse population growth in the state’s largest and most sensitive national park,” Dr Don Fletcher said.
“It is time to stop quibbling over exactly how many horses are in Kosciuszko National Park and instead get on with the job of protecting Kosciuszko from feral horses with a determined focus on reversing the population growth trend and starting real population control.”
Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox says the NSW Government must release constraints on feral horse control in Kosciuszko National Park.
“The government needs to stop listening to critics who describe horse population estimates as ‘wildly inaccurate’ and ‘exaggerated’,” he said.
“The science tells us that Kosciuszko National Park, the largest park in NSW, is now home to about 14,000 feral horses and that number is growing.
“Despite the horse population increasing by thousands each year, the state’s parks service is being forced into using ineffective trapping methods and has even re-released 279 trapped horses back into the park.
“The NSW Government needs to listen to the science and unshackle the parks service so that it can get on with the business of protecting our national parks, not feral horses.”
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service horse removal program has operated since 2003 but relies exclusively on passive trapping, which has only removed a small number of horses each year as a proportion of the total horse population.
Dr Fletcher says it is incorrect to call the current horse removal program a “control program”.
“The number of horses removed is many times fewer than the number required to begin reducing impacts on the environmental and Indigenous cultural values of the national park,” he says.
“The parks service, with politically imposed constraints that limit removal methods, has been undertaking a harvesting program that fails to reduce the national park horse population.”
The report warns that while drought and bushfires have had temporary impacts on individual horse herds, the overall number of feral horses in Kosciuszko continues to climb, which has resulted in tragic and inhumane consequences:
“Since 2001, the horse population grew until large numbers of horses perished in a major bushfire or drought. This is an ineffective and inhumane way to manage a population of feral animals.”
The report was commissioned by Reclaim Kosci.
The Invasive Species Council is part of Reclaim Kosci, a broad consortium of individuals and organisations that love Kosciuszko National Park and seek to protect it from the impacts of feral horses.
Dr Don Fletcher is an ecologist experienced in managing animal populations, including programs to increase abundance of threatened species and reduce abundance of pest species.