Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Kosciuszko’s 7,700 feral horse numbers will grow to 14,000 by 2012 unless humanely culled

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness said that the Aerial Survey of Feral Horses in the Australian Alps released today is a wake up call for better control.  The independent survey by Dr Michelle Dawson reveals that there are 7,700 feral horses in the Australian Alps.  The numbers of feral horses in the high country have never been so high. 

“Kosciuszko National Park’s rare and sensitive alpine flora and fauna, its beautiful fields of wildflowers and precious wetlands containing rare corroboree frogs are being wrecked.  Feral horse populations are growing at a staggering 20 per cent a year.  The survey results indicate that the current horse trapping measures are ineffective and must be reviewed,” said Mr Keith Muir, Director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Feral horse management costs $1,000 to remove each feral horse, so just throwing money at the problem will not work while restricted to trapping.  The just released independent scientific report predicts that unless more effective control measures are adopted, the feral horse populations are predicted to grow to 13,800 by 2012,” Mr Muir said.

“The horse populations grow at the expense of wildlife and wildflowers in our wonderful alpine national parks.  There are many demands for National Parks pest species management resources and the pest control budget must be well spent.  The cost is not just in dollars, it will be measured in native species and the national park degradation until humane and effective aerial culling is reintroduced”, he said.

“In the past the NSW Government has ignored the independent advice of The Australian Veterinary Society and Environment Australia regarding humane feral horse control.  These organisations support aerial shooting as the most humane method of removing large numbers of horses from our Parks.  On the basis of this new scientific survey on feral horses the NSW Government must introduce other more humane and effective measures to control feral horses in our national parks,” said Mr Muir.

“The ban on aerial shooting of horses was introduced by the NSW Government in October 2000, as a knee jerk reaction to bad media after feral horses were shot in Guy Fawkes River National Park.  In the light of this new report all sides of politics should now support the Colong Foundation’s push for humane and scientifically based pest control”, Mr Muir said.

“The control of feral horses has to be TEN TIMES more effective than the current trapping programs. You have to remove 70 per cent of a feral animal population in an intensive campaign to have any chance of lasting suppression when pest numbers get out of hand.  Only then can the scale of the control program be safely reduced without risk to the security of the park’s resources”, he said.

“The assumption that these feral horses of the high country are in any way special is untrue.  They are just like any other feral horse population in Australia.  Feral horses are culled by the tens of thousands in inland Australia.  Pest control is a fact of life that every farmer and land manager in the nation must address on a daily basis.  Park rangers must be allowed to undertake the most humane and effective methods of pest control, just like everyone else who works on the land,” said Mr Muir said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (ah)
http://www.australianalps.environment.gov.au/publications/research-reports/feral-horses-aerial-survey.html