The draft Kosciuszko National Park wild horse heritage management plan focuses on how the feral horse population will be managed to 2027 and beyond.
This submission to the draft plan was prepared by Reclaim Kosci, which represents a broad consortium of individuals and organisations that love Kosciuszko National Park and seek to protect it from the impacts of feral horses.
The plan has been prepared in accordance with the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018, which has led to a disturbing change of approach to managing the serious impact and threats of feral horses to the outstanding national heritage values of Kosciuszko National Park.
The Invasive Species Council, National Parks Association of NSW, National Parks Association of the ACT, Nature Conservation Council of NSW and Colong Foundation for Wilderness initiated the Reclaim Kosci campaign in 2018 due to concerns about the lack of progress in reducing the feral horse population and impacts in Kosciuszko National Park over the past two decades as the population exploded due to ineffective policy and action.
- In 2003 when the first horse management plan was released there were an estimated 2300 feral horses in the park, which halved after the 2003 bushfires down to around 1000.
- In 2008 a new Kosciuszko National Park Horse Management Plan was released with the feral horse population in the park being about 4000 in 2009.
- In 2016 the Kosciuszko feral horse population had grown to about 6000. The 2016 Draft Wild Horse Management Plan was developed and prescribed an ambitious reduction of the feral horse population to 600 in reaction to the alarming population growth, but this was not adopted.
- The Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 was subsequently enacted to provide for a sustainable population of ‘wild’ horses in Kosciuszko National Park and led to a pause in feral horse removal while its consequences were being deliberated.
- In 2020 the feral horse population in Kosciuszko National Park was estimated at over 14,000 horses and continuing to grow and expand.
- With an 18% per year increase, the population is likely to be thousands more in 2022 when the plan is finally implemented.
This increase in the population has occurred over the life of two failed plans and one ambitious but unadopted plan. Over the period 2002-2020 only 3620 feral horses were removed from the park over an 18 year period (KNP SAP 2020). In the meantime, the feral horse population has been increasing at an average of around 18% a year or more (Fletcher 2021 and Dawson 2009) while the alpine and sub alpine environment struggles to recover from the impact of landscape-scale bushfires.
This situation of failed and ineffective policy and action is clearly unacceptable. We look forward to significant improvement in the management of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park, albeit within the constraints and influence of the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018.
Reclaim Kosciuszko and the Invasive Species Council supports the significant reduction of Kosciuszko’s feral horse population to 3000 in the interim, and provides recommendations to strengthen the draft plan, before finalisation.