Academy hosts conference to examine the latest science on the impacts of feral horses

November 09, 2018

A national conference was held at the Academy’s Shine Dome in November to present and discuss the latest research and observations of the impacts of feral horses on the Australian Alps.

The Kosciusko Science Conference, involving 145 scientists and other stakeholders, followed an open letter from Fellows of the Academy and other researchers published in June. The letter made the point that the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 passed by the NSW Government effectively gave priority to the feral horse over many native species and ecosystems, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

The peer-reviewed research presented at the conference covered water catchments and water, alpine and sub-alpine native animals, and threatened native flora in Kosciuszko National Park, the Victorian Alpine National Park and Namadgi National Park.

Pioneering alpine ecologist and Academy Fellow, Dr Alec Costin AM, aged 93, was due to open the conference but was unable to attend due to ill health.

According to Dr Dick Williams from Charles Darwin University, who presented research at the conference, Dr Costin took on the on the alpine grazing industry in the Kosciuszko area in the 1950s and 1960s and with the help of the Australian Academy of Science, won.

In his preface in the conference booklet, Dr Costin asked: ‘Why legislate through the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 in favour of the feral horse, undoing 75 years of catchment-healing investments by multiple governments?’ Read Dr Costin's speech, delivered at the conference by Associate Professor Graeme Worboys.

The conference also saw 90 scientists sign a Kosciuszko Science Accord that called on the NSW Government to acknowledge the damage being done to Kosciuszko National Park by feral horses, to repeal the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 and cooperate with Victoria and the ACT to help remove feral horses from alpine and subalpine protected areas, among other things. Read Associate Professor Worboys' speech introducing the Accord.

Read the Kosciuszko Science Conference booklet, including abstracts of peer-reviewed research presented at the conference.

Media interest in the conference topic was intense. Conference spokesperson was Dr Jamie Pittock from the College of Medicine, Biology and Environment at the Australian National University.

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