Feral horses in Australia are facing a widespread culling program that will aim to reduce their population significantly. Amid the program, the country is aiming to kill 14,000 wild horses by shooting them from helicopters, with nearly 300 horses killed during the initial phase of the culling.
Although the initiative received criticisms in previous years, scientists have warned that the uncontrollable population growth of herbivorous mammals also endangers native animal and plant species.
Wild horses in Australia are considered as pests and invasive species, with a population reaching as high as 400,000 nationwide. Locally referred to as brumbies, these horses descended either from escaped or lost horses introduced by European settlers to the continent.
However, other sources say that there is an estimated over 1 million horses across Australia. Regardless, local authorities believe that these wild animals can overfeed on vegetation and even disrupt ecosystems.
Australia Horse Culling Program
(Photo : Photo by Boys in Bristol Photography on Uns)
One of the sites that involve the growing horse population is in Kosciuszko National Park, where an estimated 17,432 feral horses are on the loose. The park has a total land area of 2,600 square miles in southeastern New South Wales. While there have been proposals and methods before to address the population issue, including rehoming and trapping. Yet, local officials propose that helicopter shootings may increase the killing of animals and achieve their desired numbers.
In a media release on Wednesday, December 6, Australia’s New South Wales Government announced that the state’s horse culling program aims to reduce the number of feral horses down to 3,000 inside the identified parts of the Kosciuszko National Park by mid-2027. The program is part of the management of wild horses under the 2021 Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan.
The NSW Government is also planning to publicly release the following:
- Kosciuszko National Park wild horse population survey (2023)
- Results of the Preliminary Program of Aerial Shooting
- Carcass Management Plan
Also Read: Australia Plans to Kill Thousands of Feral Horses, But Scientists Say It’s Not Enough to Save the Environment
Horse Helicopter Shootings
The report revealed that survey results indicate that it will not be possible for the NSW Government to achieve the mid-2027 deadline of decreasing the local horse population to 3,000 under the current trajectory without resorting to aerial shooting or helicopter shootings.
This comes as the 2023 population survey revealed that there are between 12,934 and 22,536 horses, with a 95% confidence interval. Meanwhile, the survey has 97.5% confidence that there are 12,934 horses in the Kosciuszko National Park.
The horse helicopter shooting method employs the standard practice of using an average of 7.5 shots per animal, to ensure that the horse dies as quickly as possible and avoid “non-fatal wounding,” the NSW Government says. During the two-day trial of the program in November, two helicopters were used to conduct the aerial shooting, where 270 horses were shot to death.
In 2000, the NSW Government originally conducted the containment of its feral horse population through aerial shootings. Yet, it was met with public outcry at that time.
Related Article: Shoot-to-Kill: Aerial Cull Ordered to Rid of Feral Horses in Australia State Park After Native Wildlife Risks Extinction
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