Wild horse management in Kosciuszko National Park

The NSW Government is releasing a range of information related to wild horse management in Kosciuszko National Park.

Main Range walk alpine herbfields, Kosciuszko National Park

The management of wild horses is governed by the 2021 Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan which requires the NSW Government to reduce the number of wild horses to 3,000 within identified parts of the park by mid-2027.

The Government is releasing publicly:

  • The 2023 survey of wild horse population in the Kosciuszko National Park
  • Results of the Preliminary Program of Aerial Shooting, including the independent veterinary assessment and RSPCA NSW assessment
  • Carcass Management Plan

Results of the 2023 survey of wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park:

The 2023 survey has been completed using international best practice, and a report prepared by a leading expert from the University of New England. It has been peer reviewed by experts from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and the CSIRO is finalising a second peer review. The NSW Government is releasing it in draft format, pending the second peer review.

The estimated 2023 population is between 12,934 and 22,536 horses, with a 95% confidence interval.

The survey is 97.5% confident there are more than 12,934 horses in the park.

The 2023 survey incorporated improvements to the design used in 2022, including additional transect routes flown in the northern and southern survey blocks.

The survey results indicate it will not be possible for the NSW Government to meet the mid-2027 deadline of 3,000 horses under the current trajectory without aerial shooting.

Preliminary Program of Aerial Shooting:

The NSW Government authorised the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to undertake a short, preliminary program of aerial shooting in November.

The operation was undertaken by highly trained NPWS staff in accordance with a Standard Operating Procedure that was finalised after taking into account advice from an independent veterinarian and the RSPCA NSW.

Animal welfare is of the highest concern. 270 horses were shot over two days of this program, and there were no adverse animal welfare events.

Two helicopters were used to conduct this operation. An independent veterinarian was positioned in each of the helicopters to observe and evaluate the operation. In addition, 43 horses were inspected by veterinarians on the ground.

The report of the lead independent veterinarian is being released. It found there were no adverse animal welfare events. The median time from shooting to insensibility was 5 seconds. No horses were non-fatally wounded.

An important factor in ensuring good welfare outcomes is the NPWS standard policy of repeat shooting as standard practice – an average of 7.5 shots were used per animal. This ensures the animal dies as quickly as possible and avoids non-fatal wounding.

RSPCA NSW also observed the preliminary program and has confirmed it did not observe any departures from the Standard Operating Procedure or any non-compliance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

The NSW Government will now move to ongoing management of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park with aerial shooting as an authorised control method.

Details on the survey and preliminary program are available online: Managing wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park