Scientists attack Barilaro’s brumby protection laws

Conservationists buck at Barilaro's Snowy wild horse panel

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Scientists and conservationists took on the NSW Government's brumby protection legislation on Friday, saying brumbies are a direct threat to the ecology of Kosciuszko National Park.

Scientists and conservationists took on the NSW Government's brumby protection legislation on Friday, saying brumbies are a direct threat to the ecology of Kosciuszko National Park.

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Brumbies listed as threat to biodiversity by scientists

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The NSW Government faced a double attack on its brumby protection laws yesterday with conservationists announcing they will boycott a wild horse community panel and scientists listing brumbies as a “threat” to Snowy ecology. 

NSW conservation groups announced they will boycott the NSW Government’s call for nominations for the Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel. 

The National Parks Association said it would not participate in the planned wild horse community panel.

“Having seen the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the Wild Horse Heritage Act, we do not believe that this Panel will have the best interests of Kosciuszko National Park and its wildlife at heart,” NPA ceo Alix Goodwin said.

“NPA will not participate in a process to develop a plan that values an introduced species over threatened native species and ecological communities in Kosciuszko National Park”, said CEO, Alix Goodwin

 “By introducing the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act and its requirement to establish the Community Advisory Panel, Mr Barilaro (John Barilaro, NSW Deputy Premier) has single-handedly destroyed the legitimate and painstaking consultation undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service over a three-year period that resulted in the draft 2016 Wild Horse Management Plan.”

“The establishment of the Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel is a waste of tax payers money, and the resources being expended on this unnecessary process would be better directed to removing feral horses from Kosciuszko National Park”, Ms Goodwin said.

Keith Muir, Colong Foundation for Wilderness, said it was time for the Government to abandon the Heritage Act.

Meanwhile, the NSW Scientific Committee has listed ‘Degradation and loss by Feral Horses (brumbies, wild horses), Equus caballus’  as a key threatening process under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act, effective from 30 November 2018. 

“The state’s scientists have confirmed that feral horses are causing serious harm to native wildlife,"  Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said. 

"We urge the premier to reign in her out-of-control deputy premier and put the environment minister back in charge," said tour operator Richard Swain, who co-ordinates Reclaim Kosci, a movement against brumby protection.

"Environment groups are calling for the protection given to feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park to be overturned and horse numbers urgently reduced. The new scientific listing states that feral horses are transforming the ecosystems of Kosciuszko National Park. They trample and kill plants, destroy wetlands, degrade water catchments and drive species towards extinction."

The report found 23 threatened plant species and 11 threatened animal species are impacted by feral horses in NSW, ten of which are critically endangered. This included the northern and southern corroboree frog, mountain pygmy possum, broad-toothed mouse and the stocky galaxis.

The NSW Government maintains its brumby protection laws are no different from Victoria and that horses that impact or threaten sensitive areas of the park will be removed to other areas or rehomed. Brumby heritage group supporters say feral pigs and deer do far more damage than brumbies, some of which are related to world war one horses.

The estimated number of brumbies in Kosciuszko varies, with the National Parks two years ago saying there are 6000 in the northern part of the park, while brumby groups say the total is more like 3000 or lower. The Government has promised to undertake a transparent and comprehensive overview and count of brumby numbers.

A brumby that had starved in south part of Kosciuszko.

A brumby that had starved in south part of Kosciuszko.

Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said: “The government’s position is indefensible – the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act should be repealed immediately.

“The horses are destroying the fragile alpine environment and need to be managed, not given special protection over every other animal and plant in Kosciuszko National Park,” Ms Sharpe said.

“If elected, Labor will repeal these terrible laws and reinstate the National Parks and Wildlife Act. We will work with key stakeholders to manage wild horses and we will invest in long term catchment repair within the park.

“Kosciusko National Park is our only alpine national park, with deep cultural significance, globally significant ecosystems, and unique threatened species. It holds the headwaters of the great Murray River and is an important hub for tourism and jobs – it must be protected.”

Recently there have been reports of hunters shooting brumbies in the park, which has alarmed animal lovers. One video shows a brumby shot through the stomach and dying.  A number of brumbies have also been found dead from the drought, which has hit hard in the far south-east of the park. The antagonism between pro-brumby and anti-brumby supporters is growing as the NSW election looms next year.

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