An environmentally motivated plan to cull 6,000 feral horses back to just 600 animals in Kosciuszko National Park appears to have foundered, with one group pushing for a bill aimed at protecting the invasive species.
The management plan was supposed to have been finalised last December, with a round of culling and sterilisation to begin this year. Instead, political negotiations have been scuppered with no consensus on how to move the debate forward.
On one hand, the large herbivores have been shown to place large amounts of pressure on alpine ecosystems, threatening native species in the process. On the other, locals to the area feel the ‘brumbies’ are part of their cultural heritage and deserve freedom.
Hoping to break the stalemate, NSW environment minister Gabrielle Upton is meeting key stakeholders to work out possible changes to the plan, with the hope of having a resolution prior to the next state election.
It’s believed the existing method of trapping and relocating wild horses (considered both expensive and inefficient), will be relied on more heavily in any changes going forward.
Yet any action in favour of protecting Australia’s environment is too much action for Peter Cochran, former Monaro MP and owner of Cochran Horse Treks, as well as director of the Snowy Mountains Bush Users Group (SMBUG).
“We’re in the process of contesting the validity of the draft wild horse management plan,” Cochran told Wild. “There was no recognition of the cultural significance of the brumby in that plan, so what we’re advocating is that there should be legislation to cover this and any future management plans, ensuring they take cultural significance into account and protect the brumby from being exterminated.”
When asked if there was the possibility of any kind of compromise, with a view to save native species, Cochran responded in the negative.
“No, we don’t compromise anymore. We’ve compromised too much already. We’ve sacrificed the land we owned and grazed for the National Park; we’ve been compromising for 150 years.
“So, no. We’re not going to compromise any further.”
Cochran plans to have a bill put forward to protect feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park.
Feral horses have become a regular sight for visitors to Kosciuszko National Park as well as many other alpine areas in NSW and Victoria, yet without management their numbers can go through enormous booms and crashes.
In recent years, starving horses have been observed to feed from the carcasses of deceased herd members, while even in good health they destroy delicate sphagnum bogs which they use as wallows.
Matt McClelland, owner of Wildwalks online bushwalking guide, said that bushwalkers and other parks users may have mixed feelings about the wild horses, but most would agree their numbers need to be better controlled.
“Nobody likes seeing such majestic creatures euthanised, but national parks are primarily about protecting native biodiversity,” said McClelland.
“Kosciuszko is already under a lot of pressure from climate change, it is now more important than ever before to control these horse populations.
“To go one step further and actually provide protection for a feral animal in a national park would be lunacy. As a bushwalker, I do appreciate their majestic beauty, but this love for the horses should not be allowed to blind us to the damage they are causing to the unique Kosciuszko ecosystems. I think most would agree their numbers need to be, at least, controlled and much lower than they are now.”