As we mark World Wetlands Day on Feb 2nd we should consider the streams, wetlands and rivers within Australia's most important catchments. This is where our water should be at its purest and the catchments in their best condition. Tragically these once pristine areas have been significantly degraded by feral horses in the Australian Alps parks, said Kevin Evans CEO of the National Parks Association of NSW.
"A 2009 aerial survey over the Australian Alps found the feral horse population to be about 8000 and this represented an annual increase of 21% per annum from 2003 surveys. This was despite live capture and removal of horses by park agencies. Clearly current management strategies are failing to address the problem adequately.
Feral horses cause substantial damage to the headwaters of the mighty Murray River and its major tributary the Murrumbidgee, and to the catchments of the Snowy River, dramatically affecting native habitat, threatened native species and the quality of water, of vital importance to all downstream water users. These include those in rural townships, farmers and many irrigators.
With an average annual 9600GL generated by the Australian Alps catchment worth an estimated $9.6 billion, in 2005 terms, to the national economy there is an economic as well as environmental imperative to take immediate action.
The NSW Government are waiting for the results from a new aerial survey of feral horses which are due to begin this month. The results will no doubt confirm the problem is out of control leaving the Environment Minister with little option other than to fund more effective and efficient control strategies. NPA along with many other conservation organisations believe that an aerial culling program is the only humane solution, provided there is rigorous welfare supervision, with close involvement of the RSPCA.
We may already be past the point of no return. Action is needed now. We urge the minister to end decades of inaction and confront this problem without further delay", concluded Mr Evans.
Images that illustrate the problem can be found here.
Media Contact: Kevin Evans 045 7797 977