The NSW government's pause on programs to control feral pigs, deer and horses in Kosciuszko National Park is a knee-jerk reaction that is bad news for the Snowies and could lead to more feral animals shifting into Namadgi National Park and threatening the species living there.
Just over a week ago, NSW Environment Minister James Griffin announced on the 2GB radio's Ray Hadley show that the NSW National Parks was suspending all aerial and ground shooting operations in Kosciuszko National Park for two weeks. This includes programs to control feral pigs, deer and horses.
Earlier in the week Hadley spruiked stories promoted by feral horse advocates about 11 feral horses shot in Kosciuszko, claiming it was inhumane. He was relentlessly putting pressure on the NSW Premier to stop the horse cull.
Then at the end of the week a caller rang in and claimed that NPWS were running an aerial shooting operation on his property adjacent to Kosciuszko National Park without being notified. He alleged that guests at his property were scared they were being shot at.
It didn't matter that this alleged incident occurred more than six months ago and more than 100 kilometres away from the feral horse cull in Kiandra. The operation was only shooting feral deer. Not horses.
Yet, these facts didn't seem to matter at the end of the day.
Hadley conflated the two stories and suddenly a narrative was created of massive gunfire and that the cull was just like the OK Corral. One Nation's Mark Latham lined up to claim it was a scene from Apocalypse Now, despite not being anywhere near it at the time.
After sustained pressure, the NSW Environment Minister called into Hadley's show on the same day to announce a suspension of all feral animal control operations in Kosciuszko National Park.
That's feral deer, feral pigs and feral horses.
The safety of people is paramount, but the conflation of allegations surrounding the feral deer cull in February and the control of feral horses in line with standard operating procedures and animal welfare guidelines, should concern us all.
Australia's unique Alps make up less than 1 per cent of the mainland and are under constant threat from invasive hard hoofed animals, such as feral deer and horses. These large, heavy invasive animals trample and degrade wetlands and ecosystems that evolved over millennia without these pressures; they destroy habitats for some of our most unique wildlife, such as the iconic corroboree frog, which occur nowhere else on Earth.
Feral horses and deer also degrade the catchments and headwaters for three of our most important rivers, the Murray, the Murrimbidgee and the Snowy. Collectively these rivers sustain much of inland Australia's environmental wealth and productivity, and provide clean drinking water for more than a million people.
But despite what's at stake and what must be done, we have a government brought to heel by a radio shock jock.
As NSW has paused feral animal control, it will mean the ACT government will need to pick up the slack for those hard hoofed invasive animals making their way across into Namadgi. The ACT is currently free of feral horses, and it needs to stay that way.
The science tells us there are more than 14,000 feral horses inside Kosciuszko and that number is growing by about 20 per cent every year. If we are to protect what makes Australia special - the unique ecosystems and wildlife that evolved here and occur nowhere else in the world - we need to take action against the major threats to their survival.
Managing our amazing national parks should be done on the best available science and First Nation knowledge. Pandering to shock jocks cannot be allowed to delay the important job of stopping damage from feral horses, pigs and deer.
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