Kosciusko National Park is worth fighting for
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Reclaim Kosci believes wild horses pose a direct threat to the ecosystem of Kosciusko National Park and the NSW government must do more.

Kosciusko National Park is worth fighting for

by Daniel Sleiman See Profile
Mount Kosciuszko, Kosciuszko National Park NSW 2627, Australia
18th Feb 2019
Kosciusko National Park is worth fighting for

In June 2018 the NSW Government passed the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act. The object of the Act is to recognise the heritage value of sustainable wild horse populations within parts of Kosciuszko National Park and to protect that heritage. The law effectively prohibits the culling of wild horses to manage their population in Kosciusko National Park. The issue has pitted organisations like Reclaim Kosci, the RSPCA and academics like Professor Don Driscoll against the state government’s position which favours a removal policy.

According to Reclaim Kosci, the feral horse population are having a number of negative impacts on other animals and plant life. Andrew Cox, CEO of the Invasive Species Council, one of the main organisations leading Reclaim Kosci, says “there are a number of threatened species being trampled on such as corroboree frogs, the broad toothed rat, mountain pygmy possums and very rare alpine plants.”

“Effectively what we are seeing happen is as the feral horse population grows the habitats of these threatened species are being lost. These are species that are found nowhere else in the world.”

The NSW government’s position has been to trap and remove feral horses to “less sensitive” areas. This strategy, however, has been met with the criticism that it is ineffective and costly.

Don Driscoll, Professor of terrestrial ecology at Deakin University, says that the government’s law is outrageous.

“It’s not based on science. They [the state government] haven’t taken advice from parks managers and ecologists who understand those systems. It’s going to lead to degradation and an expansion of the horse population as well as a growing bill to address the environmental damage these horses are causing.”

According to Andrew Cox the last census in 2014 assessed that there were 6000 wild horses in the area with an estimated 10-20 percent annual increase.

“Because the horses are in an area which has a suitable habitat, as the numbers grow, they push out of that area because there is a certain density that the horses tolerate. So over time the area that the horses occupy spreads. At the moment they are occupying half the park and they are projected to cover the whole park because it is entirely suitable. We know this because there is quite a good understanding of feral animals in the landscape and horses are no different to other animals whether it’s foxes or dear, pigs or goats”, says Mr Cox.

The idea of culling wild horses is not one that sits easily with many people. Yet in Professor Driscoll’s view culling is not contentious and it is more humane considering the level of suffering that these feral horses endure because of high population numbers.

“It’s not controversial, the RSPCA support aerial culling and that’s because if you leave these horses in the wild they suffer enormously. We saw late last year because of the drought these feral horses were dying of starvation because there was just not enough food to sustain that size of the population, the inhumanity of that leaves any ethical issues around culling for dead. Aerial culling is the most humane way of destroying horses, the cheapest and the most effective.”

Professor Driscoll also points out that aerial culling is already used for other feral animals such as for goats in Victoria and for deer and pigs.

Horses create bogs and destroy wetland habitat. Credit: Reclaim Kosci.
Horses create bogs and destroy wetland habitat. Credit: Reclaim Kosci.

Reclaim Kosci says that the government’s policy of removal hasn’t worked. In fact, they claim that there have been no removals for the last 17 months. Mr Andrew Cox points out that the feral horses should not be prioritized over other animals and plants.

“If you adopt the animal rights view, you need to look at all animals, and you have to also accept that there are plants which are unique and irreplaceable. There are other animals as well who have a right to their habitats and not be trampled to death and to actually have a place in the park. We are talking about a national park which is supposed to be one of the few places that aren’t cleared and the native animals are able to have a go,” says Mr Cox.

On the 8th of November 2018 the Australian Academy of Science held a conference on the Feral Horse Impacts on Kosciusko National Park. The conference released the Kosciusko Science Accord which stressed the urgent need to reduce the feral horse population. The Accord confirmed the scientific evidence that feral horses are damaging soil, streams, wetlands, native alpine plants and animals. It expressed concern about the government’s law which gave protected status to feral horses and seeks the repeal of the legislation in its entirety.

Reclaim Kosci wants to see the environmental impact from horses go down and raise awareness about the ecological dangers that this non-native animal presents to the park.

“We want to see the park as a national park not as a haven for a highly destructive feral animal. We want to help people understand the nature of the problem and that the idea of using lethal force to control the wild horse population isn’t necessarily a bad thing” says Mr Cox.

Find out more about Reclaim Kosci.

Reclaim Kosci
Daniel Sleiman

About Daniel Sleiman

Daniel is a freelance writer and content producer who is passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless and those in our society who have been marginalised. He has a strong interest in social justice and loves to tell stories. For Daniel, stories can be powerful, hard-hitting, and a call for change.

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Our Environment
Mount Kosciuszko, Kosciuszko National Park NSW 2627, Australia
18th February 2019