Aerial shooting from helicopters will be used to cull brumby numbers in NSW’s Kosciuszko National Park, the state government has confirmed.
NSW is legally required to reduce their wild brumby figures to 3000 by mid- 2027, however, current estimates from a 2022 survey suggest there are more than 14,000.
The wild horses have been found to be a threat to more than 30 native threatened species, including the critically endangered southern and northern corroboree frogs, broad-toothed rat and the she-oak skink.
They also destroy native plants, increase soil erosion, and pollute waterways and soil.
NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe acknowledged the cultural significance of brumbies, however said aerial shooting was a necessary measure to preserve the welfare of the park.
“There are simply too many wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park,” she said.
“Threatened native species are in danger of extinction and the entire ecosystem is under threat. We must take action.”
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service will now undertake a short, preliminary program to refine a standard operating procedure for aerial shooting before a wider implementation. A carcass management plan and an updated population survey will also be made publicly available.
This will be done in collaboration with the RSPCA NSW, who will also observe and evaluate the program.
Ms Sharpe said the shooting, done from helicopters, will be carried out as humanely as possible.
Currently, aerial shooting is already used on other invasive species like wild deer, pigs and dogs.
“There is the view and there is clear evidence that aerial shooting done well provides the best animal welfare outcomes as you’re going about what is an unpleasant business in culling animals,” she said.
In order to allow aerial shooting, the government will amend the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan
Currently, the park uses on-ground shooting, trapping and relocation, however the government was forced to consider alternate methods to control the invasive species after numbers increased by 4434 between 2020 2022.
A Senate inquiry into the culling of wild horses in Australia’s alpine regions recommended NSW to remove its ban on aerial shooting, and urged the Commonwealth to increase funding to state governments.