The culling of animals in national parks can be an emotive issue, and never more so than when it comes to wild horses.
The NSW Government has recently adopted an amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan which authorises aerial shooting as an additional control method to reduce the number of wild horses in the park.
It says the change is essential to protecting the park’s threatened native wildlife and ecosystems.
The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee Report found effective control of wild horses could be the difference between survival and extinction for up to a dozen threatened species found only in the Australian Alps.
The amendment allows the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to use aerial shooting in addition to existing control methods – such as ground shooting, and trapping and rehoming – to reach the legally-required wild horse population target of 3,000 by mid-2027.
The November 2022 survey of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park showed an estimated population of 18,814.
Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said there were simply too many wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park, and action had to be taken.
“This was not an easy decision,” she said. “No one wants to have to kill wild horses.”
However, Ms Sharpe said she had carefully considered all the options, and the step was needed to help save endangered and vulnerable species and their habitat, protect soil and waterways and conserve cultural heritage.
“Aerial shooting, when carried out by highly trained personnel in accordance with rigorous standards, delivers the best possible animal welfare outcomes,” she said. “I know this decision will upset some members of the community … I empathise with those who feel distressed that we must undertake control programs.”
The proposal to amend the plan was put on exhibition for community input and attracted 11,002 submissions. Advice from the Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel and National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council was also considered.
Of the submissions which commented on aerial shooting, 82% expressed support for the control method being included in the plan.
The Government says NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service staff are highly trained and undergo rigorous testing to be approved to carry out aerial shooting on a range of invasive species, including deer and pigs.
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