I heard about this on the news, and I cannot understand why there is not better ways often animals are feral because of man. I came across the details as follows:
Aerial shooting of feral horses approved by NSW government.
Wiradjuri man and Alpine river guide Richard Swain spent his childhood watching the Alpine high country return to its pristine condition after decades of grazing had ruined it. But for the past 20 years, feral horse populations have boomed, allowing them to trample waterways and destroy the habitat of native animals.
On Friday, that long battle that many, including Swain, have fought may have ended. The NSW government approved the aerial shooting of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park in a bid to control the rapidly ballooning population.
In two years, the feral horse populations in the park increased by more than 30 per cent despite the state government setting reduction targets and ramping up resources and investment.
The NSW government published data last year showed feral horse populations in the national park were up to 18,814, a sharp increase from the estimate of 14,380 horses two years ago. In 2016, there were only 6000 in the park. Previously, environmental groups have said the number of feral horses could increase to 50,000 in the next decade unless stronger measures were introduced.
Swain said the decision put the health of the soil, water, and native species ahead of the politics.
“I want to see a change in this country, I want us to prioritise what’s left of our native species and start to heal some of the damage that’s been done since colonisation,” Swain said. “It’s sad that our country has puts feral species above native species. Modern Australia doesn’t identify with the species that have evolved here, but hopefully that will change.”
“The senseless destruction of Country by feral horses over the last 20 years has been a national disgrace,” he said.
“For two decades the most humane and effective method for removing feral animals has been off the table for feral horses due to political cowardice.
Despite more resources than ever being pumped into feral animal management and National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS), ecologists and environmental groups said years of natural disasters, climate change and political inaction have allowed feral animals to flourish, pushing much of Australia’s native flora and fauna to the brink.
Brumbies, or feral horses, degrade and damage waterways and bushland, kill native wildlife – including the corroboree frog, the broad-toothed rat and rare alpine orchids – and are also a multibillion-dollar annual cost to agriculture in NSW.
The NSW government relies on ground shooting, trapping and rehoming to manage feral horse numbers, but it hasn’t been enough.
That’s why NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe opened public consultation on the aerial shooting proposal in August, before announcing on Friday it would be used to better manage feral horses.
The state uses aerial shooting for other feral animals, including pigs and deer, and their carcasses are dealt with under a management plan. Many of their bodies are left in the wild and difficult-to-access terrains where they are shot, although some are moved from waterways to avoid health-related issues.
Therefore, the aerial shooting of feral horses and management of their carcasses isn’t as controversial as some would argue.
The ACT and Victoria currently allow for aerial shooting of brumbies, although the latter is yet to do so.
There are still a few details the government is working through, including how often helicopters will conduct shooting and at what times.
The proposal to amend the plan attracted 11,002 submissions, of which 82 per cent expressed support for aerial shooting.
Sharpe said there were simply too many wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park and that threatened native species were in danger of extinction and the entire ecosystem was under threat.
“We must take action,” she said. “This was not an easy decision. No one wants to have to kill wild horses. I have carefully considered all the options, and I thank everyone who took the time to make a submission.”
Sharpe added that aerial shooting would be carried out by skilled, highly trained shooters to the highest animal-welfare standards.
Why hasn’t the feral horse cull happened sooner?
The management of feral horses has become so controversial that National Parks and Wildlife Service staff suffer constant harassment for doing their work. Over the past few years, this has escalated to online stalking and even a threat of firebombing.
It all started in 2000, when fires and droughts ravaged the landscape, leaving 700 horses close to starvation. Two teams of trained shooters in helicopters flew through Guy Fawkes River National Park and shot 600 of the feral horses.
A few days later, one of the horses was found injured and alive, triggering an inquiry and five reports that would result in then-state Labor environment minister Bob Debus banning aerial shooting.
But the issue has not settled down since then. It reared its head again in 2018, when former Nationals leader John Barilaro and a small but effective horse lobby passed the so-called Brumby Bill in 2018 that largely protected feral horses on the grounds of cultural heritage.
A later compromise led to an agreement to cull most of the brumbies, but to maintain a herd of 3000. But keeping to this number has been nearly impossible and feral horse numbers have boomed.
What are they saying?
Brumby supporters say the pest should be protected because of its historical heritage associated with settler life. They also claim the brumby numbers have been inflated.
However, advocacy manager for the Invasive Species Council, Jack Gough, said all available tools in the toolbox were needed to manage feral horses.
“The science is crystal clear and the public and political mood has shifted as Australians have become better informed about the damage feral horses are doing to the high country,” he said.
“No one likes to see animals killed, but the sad reality is that we have a choice to make between urgently reducing the numbers of feral horses or accepting the destruction of sensitive Alpine ecosystems and habitats, and the decline and extinction of native animals.”
But some people fear aerial shooting of feral horses may lead to a repeat of the Guy Fawkes 2000 incident. Animal Justice Party MLC Emma Hurst said, “Aerial shooting is ruthless and inhumane. When the last government-sanctioned aerial shooting of brumbies took place … horses were found days later still alive with bullet wounds. This is the sort of bloodbath we will likely see again.”
She added that it was unacceptable the government had made the decision to implement aerial shooting while an inquiry into the matter was still under way.
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