Top scientists demand NSW commit to brumby cull in Kosciuszko national park
Dozens of Australia’s top scientists are demanding the New South Wales government repeal legislation that abandoned the culling of feral horses in the Kosciuszko national park.
In Canberra on Thursday 145 scientists met to hear evidence of the damage feral horses are causing to the park, the worst of which includes the destruction of nesting habitat of critically endangered corroboree frogs.
An accord to be presented to the Berejiklian government calls on NSW to acknowledge “the extensive, serious, and potentially irreparable damage” the horses are causing and to cooperate with governments in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory to remove them using aerial culling.
It says the government must “repeal in its entirety the NSW Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018, and restore the protected status of Kosciuszko national park, its 2006 plan of management and implement the 2008 horse management plan”.
Jamie Pittock, an associate professor at the Australian National University Fenner school of environment and society, said the government had walked way from decades of cooperation between the science community and governments to protect the national park.
“I think the reason why so many scientists from all over Australia have come together today is because we’re so appalled and angry that all this scientific evidence has been ignored by the NSW government in adapting this so-called wild horse act,” he said.
“It’s appalling because it jeopardises the critical alpine area that is so important to Australia.”
Earlier this year NSW passed legislation that abandoned a management plan that recommended aerial culling of horses and instead formally recognised their cultural and historical significance.
The government says its preferred method of removal is to trap and rehome animals. But Pittock said the populations of horses were too large and their locations so remote that trapping and rehoming was not realistic.
“There’s 7,000 feral horses up there and the population increases by about 10% every year,” he said. “The people trapping horses physically can’t trap enough.”
He said research presented on Thursday showed the significance of the damage the horses were causing for native threatened species. That included trampling moss beds used by critically endangered corroboree frogs for breeding, making it impossible for the frogs to nest.
Scientists also said the government’s legislation would “dismantle Kosciuszko national park, its zoning and its environmental protection of catchments and native Australian spe-
cies” by transferring planning for any known feral horse areas from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to a community advisory panel.
Dick Williams, an adjunct professor from Charles Darwin University, said the documented evidence of the destruction horses were causing was “very clear and clean”.
“The natural values of the Australian high country are outstanding, they’re world class and they’re severely compromised by feral horses,” he said. “You’ve got to get rid of them.
“The parliament is important and it’s got to do its job and overturn the legislation.”
A spokeswoman for the NSW deputy premier, John Barilaro, said the government’s bill was introduced only months ago and maintained a ban on aerial shooting that had “been in place for nearly 18 years”.
She said the legislation had not changed existing population control measures. “Nobody wants to see horses shot from the sky and left dying for weeks as was the case in Guy Fawkes national park in 2000,” she said.
“The wild horse management plan, which will be implemented in coming months, aims to find a balance between humanely controlling the brumby population and preserving sensitive areas of the national park.”
Scientists say feral horses in Kosciuszko national park are causing potentially irreparabledamage.