Photo credit: Sean Davey

As many as 17,000 wild horses are destined for the knackery or to be shot in trap yards as the feral ­animal population spills over into critically endangered wildlife habitat in bushfire-ravaged Kosciuszko ­National Park.

It is a situation that could have been avoided if the NSW government had enacted a 2016 management plan rather than enshrining feral horse protection in legislation, according to leading authorities.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean announced on Wednesday that about 4000 feral horses would be removed from three wildlife habitat areas, covering about 57,000ha, in the north of the park, a move applauded by conservationists but condemned by supporters of feral horses.

According to a government spokesman, horses will be ­removed from the Nungar Plain and numbers will be “reduced substantially” on Cooleman Plain and parts of Boggy and Kiandra plains. It is not clear what fate awaits the horses and the spokesman said rehoming would be a priority, but “some would go to the knackery”.

Years of lobbying and political pressure from a small but vocal group of feral horse supporters in the Snowy Mountains has curtailed effective management of horses, allowing their numbers to rocket to an estimated 20,000, up from an estimated 6000 five years ago.

A draft management plan by the NSW government in 2016 proposed reducing the number of horses to 600 over 20 years, but this was rejected in favour of the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Bill, which was passed into law in 2018. But with the feral horse population increasing at a rate of 23 per cent a year, the do-nothing ­approach has come crashing down…

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