Draft NSW Government park management plan ‘flawed’ and ignores damage caused by feral horses

October 29, 2021
Entire grassy plains landscape blackened by fire with nothing green; in the foreground two horses are standing on burnt ground with nothing to graze on.
Horses on Currango Plain in Kosciuszko National Park, immediately after the December 2020 bushfires. Credit: Photo by Alex Bonazzi, used with permission from Invasive Species Council.

An open letter to the NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean published today calls on the NSW Government to work towards removing all feral horses from every NSW protected area.

The letter from the Australian Academy of Science has 69 signatories including Fellows of the Academy, other researchers and seven science organisations. It says all feral horses must be removed to protect the native Australian plants, animals and ecosystems of Kosciuszko National Park and other national parks affected by feral horses in NSW, such as Barrington Tops, Guy Fawkes, Oxley Wild Rivers and the Blue Mountains.

The letter states this is feasible because horses can be kept on private property, protecting the cultural values they have for some people. The letter also cites recently published research which found 71% of survey respondents agreed it is acceptable to cull feral animals if they are harming threatened species.

The letter also calls for more immediate steps to strengthen the Draft Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan currently out for public consultation.

Recommendations in the letter include to:

  • reduce feral horse numbers rapidly to well below the preliminary target of 3,000 by using all available methods that are effective and meet animal welfare standards
  • protect all of Kosciuszko National Park and not compromise one third of Kosciuszko National Park by designating horse retention areas
  • rescind the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 which continues to be a legal impediment to effective national park management, completely at odds with the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and the core principles of protected area management.

The Academy’s President, Professor John Shine, is a signatory on the letter. He welcomed Minister Kean’s previous public commitment to managing the very sensitive areas of the iconic Kosciuszko National Park on the basis of the best available science.

“We now call on the minister to listen to the science, the latest evidence and recommendations on how best to protect the park from the significant damage being done by feral horses,” Professor Shine said.

“To do otherwise would show a disregard for the threatened native Australian ecosystems and species facing imminent extinction and under threat by feral horses.”

The Academy has today also published a submission in response to the public consultation for the Draft Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan. The submission states:

“Ongoing management of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park and preservation of its ecosystems will require extensive monitoring, scientific observations and research, as well as a strong commitment to collecting and acting on such data. It will require active, responsive and well-informed management of the feral horse herds with the aim of removing them from the park entirely.

Inaction on the part of the NSW Government has already allowed the herds to grow and the damage to continue. The draft management plan pretends otherwise and is seriously flawed because of it.”

The Academy’s submission includes an evidence brief which summarises research on Kosciuszko National Park since 2018 and looks at horse numbers, horse and fire impacts and more. It finds that management strategies have been insufficient in alleviating the impacts of feral horses.

© 2021 Australian Academy of Science

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