National Parks and Wildlife Service is legally required to reduce the wild horse population in Kosciuszko National Park to 3,000 by the end of June 2027. Despite significant efforts by National Parks and Wildlife Service to increase the rate of wild horse removal since the plan was adopted in 2021, existing control methods will not enable the target population of 3,000 wild horses by this deadline. Control methods such as passive trapping and rehoming or removal to a knackery, and ground shooting are limited by several factors, including the size and terrain of the park, the mobility and distribution of wild horses, and a limited number of people willing and capable of rehoming wild horses.
On current trends, using the control methods approved under the current plan, it is estimated that the population of wild horses on 30 June 2027 will still be more than 12,000. With only the same methods in use, it is likely the population will not be reduced to 3,000 until 2030–31.
What could aerial shooting achieve?
- It would enable the existing legal obligation to reduce the population of wild horses to 3,000 horses by 30 June 2027 to be met.
- Achieving the population target within the required timeframe would deliver significant benefits for the environment and cultural heritage, reducing the extent of damage caused by wild horses and lowering the risk of extinction for several threatened species (compared to the use of currently authorised methods only, which will not reduce the wild horse population to 3,000 until 2030–31).
- Best practice aerial shooting would deliver animal welfare outcomes comparable to or better than other available control methods.
- Fewer wild horses would be killed overall because the population would be reduced within the required timeframe (June 2027) rather than being drawn out for several more years, while population growth continues; it is estimated the use of aerial shooting would result in approximately 8,000 fewer wild horses being killed to achieve and then maintain the target population of 3,000.
- Risks posed by wild horses to visitors in the park would be reduced, including in high visitation campgrounds, walking tracks and on roads.
Would aerial shooting offer good animal welfare outcomes and what safeguards would be in place?
Best practice aerial shooting carried out by skilled, highly trained shooters under appropriate operating protocols delivers animal welfare outcomes that are comparable to or better than other control methods such as trapping or mustering, and transport to a knackery or shooting in trap yards.
Aerial shooting of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park would be carried out to the highest animal welfare standards. This would include the development of a standard operating procedure informed by independent expert veterinary and animal welfare advice, and involve ongoing auditing by animal welfare experts. The National Parks and Wildlife Service's standard operating procedures would meet Australian and NSW legislative requirements.
How would aerial shooting be carried out?
Aerial shooting would be very carefully implemented using our specialist shooters and aircraft to ensure it is safe and meets the highest animal welfare standards.
National Parks and Wildlife Service shooters are highly trained, accredited and competent, with hundreds of hours of experience in aerial shooting a range of feral animal species, including pigs, goats and deer. The latest state-of-the-art equipment is used in aerial shooting operations. Shooters must undertake specialised training and accreditation to undertake this work.
Why isn't reproductive control being used?
Reproductive control is not viable for the wild horse population in its current numbers and distribution in Kosciuszko National Park.
A trial of reproductive control options will commence when the overall population is reduced to 3,000 wild horses. This will assist in maintaining the population at 3,000 horses as required by the plan.
Why can't all the wild horses be rehomed?
Trapping and rehoming will continue as a control measure. However, trapping and rehoming in many parts of the park is not practicable or consistent with implementing the highest animal welfare standards.
In 2022 only around 400 horses were rehomed from the park. This rate is not sufficient to remove enough wild horses from the park.
Demand for wild horses to be rehomed from the park represents a very small number of those needing removal in the next 4 years. There are not enough people with suitable experience willing to take wild horses of any colour, size, age or gender and that can also meet the required standard of care to look after them. Rehoming cannot be implemented at the scale required to reduce the population to 3,000 wild horses by 2027, as required by the Act and the plan.
All authorised methods, including trapping and rehoming, will remain and be used as part of the ongoing implementation of the plan.