The Invasive Species Council cautiously welcomed the plan released today to drastically reduce feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park.
“While this plan is an important breakthrough, the Invasive Species Council is sceptical of the goal to reduce feral horse numbers to 600 in 20 years can be achieved while aerial culling remains banned,” CEO Andrew Cox said today.
“We are pleased the draft plan released today by NSW environment minister Mark Speakman methodically confronts escalating environmental damage to the internationally significant Kosciuszko National Park.
“The impacts from feral horses are now considered by some experts as comparable to the impacts from cattle grazing. Summer cattle grazing in Kosciuszko was phased out in the 1960s and required extensive rehabilitation of areas suffering vegetation loss and soil erosion.
“We strongly endorse the plan’s objective to significantly reduce feral horse numbers and its endorsement of lethal control measures.
“Government unwillingness to use lethal control measures was the main reason previous feral horse management plans failed to halt exponentially growing horse numbers.
“A reliance on trapping also meant suffering for horses trucked long distances to abattoirs and knackeries. Seeking to remove and transport horses to willing private landholders has only resulted in 18 per cent of horses being rehomed since 2002.
“The fundamental flaw in the latest plan is the Baird Government’s decision last year to rule out aerial culling. Without aerial shooting as an option we are sceptical the desired large reduction in horse numbers is achievable.
“The plan’s target is to reduce horse numbers from the current level of about 6000 to 3000 in ten years and then to 600 in 20 years.”
The independent technical reference group concluded that “aerial shooting under a ‘best practice scenario’ had the lowest overall animal welfare impact of all lethal methods.” It found that where “these conditions are not achievable, ground shooting, or passive trapping/mustering followed by on-site humane killing, were the next best options.”
“Feral horses are destroying nationally endangered alpine sphagnum bogs, impacting on catchment water quality, threatening plants and animals with extinction, altering grasslands and streams in treeless plains and alpine areas and causing serious road accidents,” Mr Cox said.
Feral horses now occupy 48 per cent of the park and have recently moved into the Main Range, Yarrangobilly and Cooleman Plain areas, three areas of “exceptional natural and cultural significance”. Evidence of feral horses has recently been found near the Mt Kosciuszko summit.
The draft plan will be open for public comment until 8 July 2016.
 Final report of the Independent Technical Reference Group 2016.
 Review of the 2008 Horse Management Plan and Wild Horse Management Program, Kosciuszko National Park 2016.