Counting every horse individually is not possible in a landscape as large, remote and rugged as Kosciuszko National Park. As a result, monitoring is undertaken using the international and Australian standard for population surveys of large animals from the air. The 2021 Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan commits to science-based wild horse population estimates.
The surveys are conducted using helicopter line transect sampling. The survey was designed and analysed using DISTANCE software. The survey results are peer-reviewed by experts at the CSIRO and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
2022 spring survey
The spring 2022 survey report found the best estimate for the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park is 18,814.
The 95% confidence interval of the survey is 14,501 – 23,535. This means that we can be very confident that the population within Kosciuszko National Park is at least 14,501 and could be up to 23,535 wild horses. Providing a 95% confidence interval is crucial to good evidence-based research and reflects the integrity of the survey results.
The 2022 and 2020 population surveys shared the same methodology and survey area. Although the population estimate increased in 2022 (18,814 wild horses) compared to the 2020 estimate (14,380 wild horses), there is no statistically significant difference between the estimates.
The increase in population between 2020 and 2022 may be due to numerous factors, including:
- above average rainfall in 2021 and 2022 in parts of the park following earlier drought and impacts of bushfire
- the movement of horses in and out of the park
- the inherent variability when estimating populations over such large areas.
2020 spring survey
Following community feedback and concerns about the impacts of the 2019–20 bushfires, a population survey of wild horses was undertaken in spring 2020 that is specific to Kosciuszko National Park.
The 2020 survey was specially designed to estimate the number of wild horses within Kosciuszko National Park only. The previous 2019 survey was designed to estimate the horse population across the Australian Alps, including national parks and reserves, neighbouring state forest and adjacent areas in Victoria.
The spring 2020 survey report found the best estimate for the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park is 14,380.
The 95% confidence interval of the survey is 8798–22,555. This means that we can be very confident that the population is at least 8798 and could be up to 22,555 wild horses.
2019 Australian Alps survey
This 5-yearly survey is an initiative of the Australian Alps National Parks Cooperative Management Program, and involves the National Parks and Wildlife Service, ACT Parks and Conservation Service and Parks Victoria. Surveys have been undertaken in 2001, 2003, 2009, 2014 and 2019. The survey aims to produce an estimate of the wild horse population across Alps reserves and state forest in New South Wales and Victoria.
More information and the survey results are available on the Australian Alps National Parks website.