Brumbies ‘time bomb’ for Alps
Thousands of feral horses across the Australian Alps are rapidly destroying fragile alpine ecosystems, threatening water catchments and bringing critically endangered species to the brink of extinction, according to 21 peerreviewed papers presented to the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra yesterday.
More than 50 scientists will sign the Kosciuszko Science Accord, which calls on the NSW government to repeal the Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 and acknowledge the “extensive, serious and potentially irreparable damage being done to Kosciuszko National Park by feral horses”.
The conference is the largest show of strength from the scientific community since the bill became law in June.
The legislation, known as the “Brumby Bill”, was introduced by Nationals Deputy Premier and member for Monaro John Barilaro. Its purpose is to “Recognise the heritage value of sustainable wild horse populations within parts of Kosciuszko National Park and to protect that heritage.”
It transfers management deci- sions on feral horses from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to a yet-to-be-appointed community advisor panel.
Scientists estimate there are more than 6000 feral horses in the park. Recent photographs taken along the Snowy River show some horses are starving to death.
Conference spokesman Jamie Pittock, from ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, said feral horse damage was so bad it could be mapped from space. “It’s spreading and it’s getting worse. The damage is particu- larly focused around headwaters of major rivers that supply water for three million Australians.”
Dr Pittock wants aerial culling put back on the table as a management option. There has been no aerial culling of feral horses in NSW since 2000.
“Aerial culling is the only control method we have available that is humane and that will reduce the number,” he said.
“The current practice of trapping horses live is incapable of reducing horse numbers. They’re simply not trapping enough horses. Rehoming is a nonsense.
“Only 18 per cent of the modest numbers being trapped are being rehomed.”
Mr Barilaro said once a new management plan was established, horses would be trapped and removed, with an emphasis on rehoming. While he has previously said lethal culling would not occur, he now says “some of these horses will end up in abattoirs, there’s no doubt’’.
“Horses will still be destroyed but they won’t be shot and left to rot on the forest floor — they will go to an abattoir,” he said.
Mr Barilaro said the public would never support the shooting of horses.
A wild horse on the Snowy Mountains Highway