The Invasive Species Council is concerned by today’s announcement from the NSW government that there has been a 30% increase in the number of feral horses degrading and trashing the Snowy Mountains in the past two years. This is despite a year of action to reduce numbers by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service under the government’s 2021 management plan which aims to reduce feral horse numbers to 3,000 by 2027.
The government survey of wild horse populations in Kosciuszko National Park, using best practice scientific methods, found that the feral horse population has increased by 4,434 from 14,380 in Spring 2020 to 18,814 in Spring 2022.
Data released by the NSW government today also noted that 525 feral horses were removed from Kosciuszko National Park between July and December 2022, an increase of 191 on the 334 removed in the first half of 2022 (total removal of 859 in 2022).
‘This alarming rise in feral horses trashing and trampling Kosciuszko National Park should be a red flag for those in the government who care about the environment and are concerned about the future of the Snowy Mountains,’ said Invasive Species Council advocacy manager Jack Gough.
‘Our sensitive alpine regions have not evolved to cope with thousands of heavy, hard-hoofed feral horses damaging streams and wetlands and degrading vegetation.
‘The future of unique wildlife such as the corroboree frog and sensitive alpine wildflowers and the headwaters of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers are at stake if horse numbers are not brought down rapidly.
‘The increase of nearly 15% per year in the past two years is consistent with previous growth rates in the absence of adequate controls. This suggests that the NSW government is falling short on their promise to significantly reduce feral horses in the Snowy Mountains to 3000 by 2027.
‘While we understand that, after years of inaction, initial control efforts would be slow to ramp up and appreciate that there was a small increase in the rate of removal in the second half of 2022, the rate is nowhere near what is needed to start to reduce numbers and protect this unique landscape.
‘To save the Snowies, whoever wins the upcoming NSW election will need to ensure there are resources and commitment to turn this around.
‘We are pleased to hear that the National Parks and Wildlife Service intends to commit additional resources to the management of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park in response to these disappointing numbers.
‘With the population at this level, culling by highly trained professionals using protocols reviewed by the RSPCA is the only viable way of reducing feral horse numbers and saving our unique Australian forests, rivers and the native animals that live there,’ said Mr Gough.