New survey data on the number of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park has shocked conservationists, scientists, tourism operators and former park managers.
“We knew the horse population was growing rapidly. But these numbers are much worse than we expected. Kosciuszko is now a horse park, not a national park,” said Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox.
“In the lead-up to the March election Deputy Premier John Barilaro promised ‘immediate’ action to reduce by half the park’s feral horse population.
“Yet the latest survey reveals his government has overseen a tripling of horse numbers over the past five years.
“At a conservative estimate we believe there are now at least 20,000 horses in Kosciuszko National Park, up from 6150 five years ago and with more than 25,000 horses across the entire Australian Alps.
“The political process has failed Kosciuszko National Park,” Mr Cox said. “The NSW government must take urgent and immediate action to prevent this crisis from deepening.”
ANU Professor Jamie Pittock said the science on the impacts of feral horses is clear.
“No longer are Kosciuszko’s native animals safe, as horses trample the last remaining habitat of endangered frogs and mammals and leave little feed for kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. The hard hooves of over 25,000 feral horses are destroying the headwaters of the iconic Snowy, Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.”
Tom Bagnat, the former NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service regional director who oversaw preparation of the now abandoned 2016 draft horse plan said “much more needs to be done to prevent the national park from being ruined”.
“All humane and effective control options need to be on the table,” he said. “The longer the government fails to act, the more wildlife will be killed, habitat and catchments destroyed and native animals and horses set to suffer.”
The safety of park visitors is also at risk, warns Acacia Rose, who runs the Thredbo-based tour company K7 Adventures.
“My clients are becoming more and more worried about dangerous encounters with wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park. It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” she said.
- Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council CEO, Mob: 0438 588 040.
About the survey
The detailed five-yearly feral horse count was undertaken in May 2019 across the Australian Alps. The survey is the most thorough of its kind and subject to a rigorous peer review process and covered a fixed survey area known to have horses in 2014. It showed that the Australian Alps has an estimated 25,318 feral horses, with 15,687 in northern Kosciuszko National Park alone, a 4.8 fold increase since 2014.
A survey using the same methodology conducted five years ago estimated 9200 horses across the Australian Alps, and about 6150 feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park.