Horse cull under consideration in Kosciuszko National Park


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Wild horses at Kosciuszko National Park. ABC News: Craig Allen Wild horses at Kosciuszko National Park. ABC News: Craig Allen

Horse cull under consideration to combat growing number of brumbies in Kosciuszko National Park

A fight is brewing over the future of thousands of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park, with increasing pressure on the New South Wales Government to embark on a controversial culling program.

ACT Parks and Conservation manager Brett McNamara next to a steel yard used to trap wild horses. ABC News: Mark Moore ACT Parks and Conservation manager Brett McNamara next to a steel yard used to trap wild horses. ABC News: Mark Moore

An estimated 6,000 brumbies run free in NSW alpine areas, a number that has tripled in the past 12 years, and senior rangers told the ABC they were losing the battle to control the growing numbers.

Rangers are currently restricted by law to only trapping and relocating feral horses out of the park.

Tom Bagnat, who oversees the horse management control plan for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), said rangers needed more options.

"We're now in a situation where over one third of Kosciuszko has horses in it, and they're increasing in number," Mr Bagnat said.

"We have to end up with some more control measures on the table for us, because trapping and re-homing - moving horses out of the park - is just not keeping pace with the growth in the population."

He said that a 2009 aerial survey estimated the iconic alpine national park held about 4,200 horses, while a 2014 survey suggested that number had grown to about 6,000 brumbies - and that was after rangers had trapped and removed 2,000 animals in the intervening years.

"We're losing ... it's not sustainable for us to sit back and not try and manage the horse population to protect the natural values of Kosciuszko," Mr Bagnat said.

"It's a really special place."

Horses threatening native species, destroying wetlands: scientists

Some scientists have long campaigned for the removal of all brumbies from Australia's alpine areas, arguing they damage sensitive waterways and bogs which are home to critically endangered native species.

Dr Graeme Worboys from the International Union for Conservation of Nature said he had monitored areas of the high country for decades and seen increasing damage from feral horses.

"The vegetation in the Australian Alps really doesn't cope very well with big heavy animals," Dr Worboys said.

"In fact they compact the wetlands, they pug the marshy areas, they destroy the stream banks and cause erosion.

"The horses are a non-native animal, and if you're managing national parks for the protection of native species, then it's really important introduced animals are removed."

Dr Worboys said Australia's changing climate was likely to put further stress on alpine ecosystems, which provide much of the water for NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT.

"Every drop of water, every litre of water coming off those mountain catchments in a much more parched and drought-prone south-eastern Australia is critical.

"If we have disturbance in the soil cover in the alps, then there's the chance of all of our hydro dams silting up, there's a chance of dirty water flowing downstream to the millions of users in the Murray-Darling system, who rely on this water."

Full full article please view http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-23/cull-being-considered-to-combat-growing-number-of-brumbies/6490458

Article republished courtesy of ABC News www.abc.net.au

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