Top sci­en­tists de­mand NSW com­mit to brumby cull in Kosciuszko na­tional park

The Guardian Australia - - News - Lisa Cox

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.”

Pho­to­graph: Mike Bow­ers for the Guardian

Sci­en­tists say feral horses in Kosciuszko na­tional park are caus­ing po­ten­tially ir­repara­bledam­age.

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