Opponents of Kosciusko brumby cull demand post-fire recount

Elka Wood 3 March 2020
Brumbies captured post-fire by Cooma photographer Michelle Brown

Brumbies captured post-fire by Cooma photographer Michelle Brown. Photo: Michelle J Photography.

NSW Minister for Environment Matt Kean hs announced that brumby numbers in Kosciusko National Park will be reduced substantially, with as many as 4,000 out of an estimated total of 20,000 horses due to be rehomed or culled.

The move comes as a bushfire recovery measure, with a NSW Government spokesperson confirming that advice from the Community Advisory Panel and the Science Advisory Panel “supports the need for urgent post-bushfire action to control horses in the sensitive areas of Kosciuszko National Park, which is necessary to protect the environment as it recovers from the fire”.

Approximately 57,000 ha have been prioritised for control in three northern parts of the park, including Nungar Plain, Cooleman Plain, and parts of Boggy and Kiandra Plains. 

“These areas contain a range of values including threatened species and sensitive ecological communities which are most vulnerable to trampling and other impacts of horses. They also include areas with a high risk of collision between horses and vehicles. This will not have a significant impact on areas where horses have heritage value and are likely to be retained under long-term management of the park,” the spokesperson says.

But not everyone agrees with the measures, with locals arguing that more horses died in the fires or were humanely euthanised by National Parks staff the immediate aftermath than has been publically acknowledged.

“National Parks have not released how many horses were euthanised after the fires,” says Cooma resident and photographer Michelle Brown of Michelle J Photography.

“As far as we know, counts are taken every five years and the last aerial count was taken in 2019. We want a post-fire brumby count and we want it now. I don’t think there’s a total of 4,000 horses in the whole park after the fire, let alone the 20,000 the government is claiming are there.”

Brown reports seeing many dead horses on her frequent visits to the park after the fire.

Dead horses killed by fire

Cooma photographer and brumby advocate Michelle Brown took photos of some of the horses which died in the fires. Photo: Michelle J Photography.

“I’ve gone into the park on foot two to three times a week since the fires and I’d estimate there are between 2,500 and 3,200 horses in the whole park.”

According to Brown, the fact that the horses move around so much means that horses from surrounding nature reserves like Jingellic Nature Reserve, Bogandyera Nature Reserve and Clarkes Hill Nature Reserve were counted as being part of the Kosciusko population.

While not an official count, members of the Invasive Species Council, along with ANU Environment Professor Jamie Pittock, flew over burnt areas of the park in late January and took footage of mobs of horses grazing on the first green shoots on open plains.

“The picture is becoming clearer as photos and video emerge from Kosciuszko National Park showing threatened species habitat hit hard while the 20,000 strong population of feral horses have largely been unscathed,” Professor Pittock says.

“Australia’s plants did not evolve to withstand trampling by hard-hooved animals or their intensive grazing.”

Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox is concerned about the concentration of brumbies in unburnt areas of the park.

“The fires that burnt 35 per cent of the park appear to have pushed the horses into a more concentrated area, increasing the trampling of wetlands, habitat of critically endangered species like the northern corroboree frog and the stocky galaxias fish.

“Horses are also returning to burnt areas following the recent rains. This will cause irreparable damage to burnt peat bogs and recovering alpine and sub-alpine vegetation.”

Brown argues that the environment has adapted to having brumbies as part of the ecosystem.

“The numbers are flawed, they’ve been flawed for years, these horses have been in this environment for 180 years, they are part of it now and they are part of our heritage. I’m appalled, it’s got to stop, this mentality to just kill everything.”

She invites anyone who doubts the numbers to come out on foot with her and see how many horses died in the fires and to see that the brumbies don’t need to be culled for humane reasons.

“The horses are fine, they are not starving, the treeline is burnt out but the plains are recovering and green. They have plenty of feed and so do all the other animals,” she says.

What's Your Opinion?

6 Responses to Opponents of Kosciusko brumby cull demand post-fire recount

Charles Parker 7:32 pm 04 Mar 20

Do a recount immediately. Also count the pigs and deer. You will then find where the problem is.

JILLIAN KEUNING 10:27 am 04 Mar 20

There is no way that 25,000 horses are in the park…if there was there’d be no elbow room to move. I agree with Michelle.. numbers do need to be managed however… the ongoing and relentless push for culling all the animals in the park is unacceptable. It is wrong plain and simple. Cox and Swain march to the best of their own drum. Relaying the message that the horses are ‘trampling’ (horses walk they don’t trample) and all congregating where the new feed is, is the worst atrocity that could happen! They must really think we are so ignorant to believe that the grasses will never return? That not one brumby perished in the wildfires and fire storms? Richard Swain promotes his business with ‘see a snowy brumby’ in his kayaking business.. but he too screams foul. The sphagnum moss beds are burned dry. The Corroboree frog buries itself deep within the earth in times of danger and peril. Horses don’t dig up the ground where these lovely frogs reside. Pigs do. The frog has a toxin in the skin that deters any animal from eating it, however, the deep rough digging motion of the pigs numbered in the hundreds of thousands does! These people know this as fact and yet, will never come to the table to reach an agreement. The horses and environment have co-existed in the park for over 150 years; Long before this area was declared a park in 1967!Both change and adapt to suit each other and the symbiotic relationship is there. The continuation of passive trapping and future discussion re viability of sterilization as an option in number management is the most logical and sensible way of keeping a sustainable number of all animals in the park. Horses are not cannibals. ridiculous nothion that there are even 4,000 in the park.. They call it number management. The locals indigenous and whites call it annihilation; and it’s wrong.

Linda Jenkins 2:33 pm 03 Mar 20

I would trust the voices/photography of Ian and Michelle Brown, they are the ones who travel into and around KNP. Their photos show the true numbers of the brumbies.
The damage to the environment is caused by feral pigs and deer. By all means cull them.

Wanda Lach 9:50 am 03 Mar 20

There is an urgent need for a recount. It’s time for pro and anti groups to do this together. It needs to have a neutral umpire who is not biased either way to oversee the count. It’s time for the killing spree to stop and some sense entee into the equation.

    JILLIAN KEUNING 10:28 am 04 Mar 20


Lucy Fisher 9:17 am 03 Mar 20

To the editor, I am surprised such a narrow range of animals has been set. What about addressing the feral pigs and the damage they cause? And the feral deer numbers are outrageous, and also they eat every species of plant not just the grasses. The Invasive Species Council and the ANU would be seriously considering putting as much promotion and resources into the eradication of these 2 species as to they have on advertising the brumby cull.
If they are considering brumbies as feral , then ALL other feral species should be in the same report. They are all in the same area , they are using the same resources and they are all breathing the same air.
Thank you
Lucy Fisher