Scientists call on NSW Premier to inspect feral horse damage in Kosciuszko

January 15, 2019
Feral horse dung piles near a snowpatch herbfield at the top of the Snowy River. Image: Casey Gibson

Australian scientists are calling on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to visit Kosciuszko National Park to see firsthand the damage inflicted by feral horses on the natural environment.

Australian Academy of Science Secretary for Science Policy, Professor David Day, said leading research on the impacts of feral horses locally provides clear scientific evidence of environmental damage done by this invasive species.

"Feral horses are impacting Kosciuszko’s endangered alpine animals, its wetlands and streams and the headwater catchments of the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Snowy rivers. The Premier needs to see this for herself and take decisive action to halt the damage,” Professor Day said.

Professor Jamie Pittock of the ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society said the NSW Government has failed to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence of Australia’s leading alpine researchers and scientists.

“The evidence presented at the Kosciuszko Science Conference in November last year was unequivocal,” Professor Pittock said.

“Even small numbers of feral horses cause damage to the park and the only realistic way to bring the thousands of feral horses under control is to use a mix of methods, including aerial culling, particularly for the Kosciuszko summit alpine area and rugged and remote parts of the park.

"The impacts of these feral horses are mounting, and the cost of getting on top of the problem and then restoring the landscapes is rising.

"There is no established heritage benefit of having feral horses in the national park, but already, millions of dollars will be needed to restore the damage these horses have done to the catchments, and that amount increases the longer they are left unchecked.

“It is now critical for the Premier to visit Kosciuszko National Park this summer to see for herself the damage caused by feral horses and to instigate action that will stop the damage and restore these iconic landscapes," said Professor Pittock.

Professor Pittock said the government’s credibility as a defender of NSW’s natural environments and catchments at Kosciuszko and its respect for scientific evidence was seriously under question.

“In 1944, another NSW Premier, Sir William McKell observed for himself the impacts of years of stock grazing to the catchments of Kosciuszko and in his words was so ‘outraged’ with the severity of the erosion that he immediately took action to establish protection through the creation of Kosciusko State Park,” Professor Pittock said.

“For the past 75 years, Liberal Governments have had a proud history of protecting the Kosciuszko National Park. There is still an opportunity for the Premier to maintain that proud tradition,” Professor Pittock said.

Read the Kosciuszko Science Accord

© 2019 Australian Academy of Science

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