Claims Horses Have Been Left To Starve To Death In National Park

GRAPHIC VISION WARNING

A fresh push is underway to reverse the government's decision to protect wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park.

It follows the release of disturbing vision showing dead and dying horses from starvation along the Snowy River in recent weeks.

An Office of Environment and Heritage spokesperson says wild horses have died because of "drought and starvation in the Kosciuszko National Park, including about 20 horses in the park's southern region".

"If you love horses you don't want to see horses starve to death", said Richard Swain from the Invasive Species Council who runs eco tours along the Snowy River said.

Photo: Invasive Species Council

But former Nationals MP Peter Cochran who runs horse treks in the Snowy mountains says it's normal during extreme conditions in certain areas of the park.

"Livestock domestic and wild animals are dying all over the state as a result of the drought, this is fact of life and it's nature's way of culling," he said.

While others fear they've been hunted, poisoned or just over-dramatised.

Jill Pickering from the Australian Brumby Alliance saying, "the odd rib showing is not a starving horse it's a very fit agile wild horse."

Photo: Invasive Species Council

Last month, a vet examined some of the carcasses and found "there was no evidence of human interference such as gunshot or other wounds," adding "it is my opinion that the deceased horses ... died of starvation because of malnutrition".

The Deputy Premier John Barilaro said "it is horrible to see those images of dying horses but it's just as bad as seeing dead kangaroo carcasses.

"If the welfare and health of a horse is of serious concern, we allow for culling, we actually allow for shooting of those horses," he said.

But campaigners say a more widespread cull is needed, calling on the government to overturn recent laws to protect the cultural significance of the animals by banning lethal culling, preferring to relocate and re-home the animals.

Richard Swain said it's not only for the animals' welfare but also that of the landscape which he claims is being destroyed by the estimated 6000 brumbies roaming free in the park.

"The Kosciuszko National Park is as important as the great barrier reef and we're treating it the same," he said.

Photo: Invasive Species Council

Cohran disagrees saying "we're quite convinced that the benefits of having the horses in the park far outweigh whatever environmental losses might be sustained."

A 2016 report recommended a cull of the brumby population by 90 percent over 20 years.

On Thursday, the Greens used parliament to push for the government bill to be repealed.

"What we've seen in these images is really distressing clearly the horses suffered incredibly and that's as a direct result of the national party's bill," Cate Faehrmann from the Greens said.

Labor has already promised to overturn the decision if elected in March.

The Deputy Premier though isn't budging.

"If my bill brought on the drought someone needs to tell me how, this is typical political point scoring from those who oppose the bill," he said.

"To those who oppose it judge me in two or three years time when for the first time in two decades you'll actually see a reduction in horses that you've never seen before," he said.