The NSW Government plan to reduce the numbers of wild horses within identified parts of Kosciuszko National Park to 3000 by mid-2027 has jumped a big hurdle with the preliminary program for aerial shooting showing some positive results.
The 2023 survey of the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park results indicate the NSW Government could not meet the mid-2027 deadline without aerial shooting and the reports from the preliminary program have green-lit the culling operation.
Results of the 2023 survey of wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park showed the estimated 2023 population between 12,934 and 22,536 horses, with a 95 per cent confidence interval.
The survey is 97.5pc confident there are more than 12,934 horses in the park.
Completed using international best practice, a report prepared by a leading expert from the University of New England has been peer reviewed by experts from the Queensland Department of Agriculture.
The CSIRO is finalising a second peer review.
Specialist National Parkes and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff undertook the preliminary program of aerial shooting in November with 270 horses shot over two days with no adverse animal welfare events.
An independent veterinarian was positioned in each of the two helicopters used in the operation, observing and evaluating, and the report of the lead independent veterinarian finding that the median time from shooting to insensibility was five seconds.
To ensure the desired animal welfare outcomes, the NPWS standard policy of repeat shooting was implemented with an average of seven and a half shots used per animal to ensure a quick death and avoid non-fatal woundings.
A spokesperson for the office of the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Penny Sharpe, said aerial shooting was now a verified means to reduce wild horse numbers.
"The NSW Government is legally required to reduce the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park to 3000 in specific areas by mid-2027 and will now move to ongoing management with aerial shooting as an authorised control method," they said.
"To protect the safety of national park visitors and staff, some operational details will not be publicly released, including the timing and duration of operations.
"The Federal Senate Inquiry report into wild horses in alpine areas noted that wild horses could be the difference between survival and extinction for up to a dozen threatened species found only in the Australian Alps.
"Examples of species at risk in Kosciuszko National Park include animals such as the Northern Corrobboree Frog, Broad-toothed Rat, Alpine she-oak skink, as well as plants and ecosystems including Alpine bogs and ferns, and Max Mueller's Burr-Daisy.
"The Senate report found feral horses are destroying vital habitat and food sources for critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable species protected at the Commonwealth and state levels."
- Details on the survey and preliminary program are available at www.environment.nsw.gov.au/wildhorses