A Riverina brumby re-homer is encouraging members of the public to get behind efforts to save the horses as the state government announces the results of its first aerial cull operation.
On Wednesday, the state government announced 270 horses were shot over two days as part of a preliminary program conducted in recent weeks - the first aerial brumby cull for the state in years.
It came after the NSW environment minister Penny Sharpe announced in October it would recommence aerial culling amid concerns the park's native wildlife and ecosystems is coming under increasing threat due to booming equine populations. Member for Wagga Joe McGirr backed those calls, saying it was the right decision but acknowledging it was also a very hard one to make.
A government spokesperson said this week there were no adverse animal welfare events as a result of the two-helicopter culling operation.
"An independent veterinarian was positioned in each of the helicopters to observe and evaluate the operation...[and] 43 horses were inspected by veterinarians on the ground," the spokesperson said.
It came as the results of a 2023 wild horse survey results were released, estimating there were 17,432 horses in the KNP prior to the recent culling operation.
The peer-reviewed draft survey, completed using international best practice, found there was a 95 per cent confidence interval that the 2023 population is between 12,934 and 22,536 horses in the park.
Prior to the latest count, official figures found there were 18,800 in NSW and 25,000 across the Alps.
The survey results also indicated it will not be possible for the state government to meet the mid-2027 deadline of 3,000 horses under the current trajectory without aerial shooting.
On Thursday Tumut-based re-homer Donna Pratt spoke out against the culling.
Ms Pratt said while she was not opposed to reducing brumby numbers, she wants it to be done in a humane way and does not believe the latest cull did that job.
"They looked at 43 horses, [but] they didn't look [at ground level] at [all the] 270 that were shot," she said.
Ms Pratt said she is not personally opposed to shooting, but said it must be humane and believes the best way to kill a horse is to shoot it through its skull from the front. She raised concerns that this was not happening with aerial shooting.
"I've actually seen on the ground, aerial shots which have hit brumbies in the shoulder and the lungs, because there's wind and bullets will stray," she said.
Ms Pratt also took issue with the latest brumby count, saying there seems to be some figures missing.
"They were saying there were about 24,000 and now there's only 17,000," she said.
She said a previous count found 17,000 and asked where the rest of the horses have gone if the latest shooting program only shot 270.
"Where are the rest of them if there are only 17,000 up there now?"
With the government now given the green light to proceed with further aerial brumby culling operations, Ms Pratt is encouraging members of the public to get involved in efforts to save the horses.
Ms Pratt has been involved re-homing the horses for the past eight years and currently has four on hand - including a foal named Aussie who is just weeks old.
She said Aussie's mother was recently killed in the national park.
For those who would like to help out, Ms Pratt said encouraged people to get in touch with Rosewood Hills Brumby Rescue, Hoofs 2010 Inc or the Snowy Mountain Brumby Sustainability & Management Group Inc.
A NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) spokesperson said since February 2022 when the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan was implemented and September 30, 2023, 2,517 horses have been removed from the park with 793 horses re-homed.
"Wild horses continue to be available for re-homing," the spokesperson said.
"The NPWS website provides contact details for people and organisations who can assist with rehoming.
"There are minimum requirements for re-homing a wild horse from the park, developed in consultation with veterinary experts and the RSPCA NSW.
"Re-homing cannot be implemented at the scale required to reduce the wild horse population to 3,000 by 2027, as required by the Act and the Plan.
"All authorised methods, including trapping and re-homing, remain in place and are being used as part of the ongoing implementation of the Management Plan."
For further information and to find a list of re-homers and contact details, go to the National Parks and Wildlife website.