Charles Sturt University ecologists back aerial culling of alpine brumbies

Removing wild horses from the Snowy Mountains for rehoming is more stressful and cruel than shooting them from the air according to three ecologists who have joined a national group of scientists calling for a rapid cull of the brumbies.

Charles Sturt university scientists Professor David Watson, Dr Dale Nimmo and Dr Alison Skinner, have joined 40 other senior scientists writing to NSW Premier Mike Baird about the urgent need for an aerial cull.

Submissions on the latest wild horse management plan closed in mid-August.

The Office of Environment and Heritage proposes to reduce the wild horse population from 6000 to less than 3000 horses in five to 10 years, and 600 horses within 20 years.

The strategy includes mustering, trapping, ground shooting and fertility control.

The park includes Australia's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, outstanding scenery, landscapes and Aboriginal and historic cultural heritage values, and plants, animals and ecological communities only found in the park or Australian Alps.

Scientists from the ANU and University of Canberra are among the group who point out over the past five years, only 450 horses have been removed annually from the national park. They say aerial culling is not part of the management plan, but is the most humane and effective method.

They say horses are introduced and have been around for about 200 years. They threaten species and ecosystems such as the endangered corroboree frog and alpine she-oaks, which have lived more than a million years in the Snowy Mountains.

Of an estimated 3183 horses removed since 2002, only 18 per cent were rehomed. The remaining 82 per cent of horses went to abattoirs after a long and stressful journey, say the scientists.

Professor Watson said despite being outlawed in NSW in 2000, aerial shooting was the most humane and effective way to reduce horse numbers.

"Scientists have demonstrated how wild horses destroy native plants and animals by trampling and grazing, polluting alpine streams and spreading noxious weeds," Professor Watson said.

"Because our national parks take such a small area we should dedicate those areas to just native species. Feral horses don't belong in this internationally significant reserve."

Opponents of culling wild horses say the animals are part of their heritage.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Europeans brought horses into the the Snowy Mountains in the 1830s, grazing of cattle and sheep soon followed and continued for more than 150 years. Horses were essential for anyone living in the mountains, for travel and for moving stock.

At times, domesticated horses would escape or were purposely released during drought or to improve the quality of mobs, and wild horses quickly became established in the mountains, including areas that are now within the park.

The story Charles Sturt University ecologists back aerial culling of alpine brumbies first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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