'Horrific' find in NSW national park as beloved brumbies shot dead

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

WARNING DISTURBING CONTENT: Two NSW photographers were “gobsmacked” after the herd of brumbies they had been documenting were found gunned down on Sunday.

Cooma couple Michelle and Ian Brown had regularly shared pictures of the small group of horses to their 72,000 followers on Facebook.

Eleven animals were found at Kosciuszko National Park with bullet holes in their heads and bodies in circumstances Ms Brown describes as “horrific”.

Michelle and Ian Brown had watched the brumbies grow up. Source: Michelle Brown
Michelle and Ian Brown had watched the brumbies grow up. Source: Michelle Brown

At least three of the mares were pregnant at the time of death and had spontaneously aborted their foals after the shooting. Ms Brown had only just photographed them a week before the incident.

“We’ve been literally photographing these horses for four or five years. We’ve watched them grow up since they were babies,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“It’s devastating to us. They were our horses. They’ve grown up with us, they know us and we’ve followed them every step of the way.”

Ms Brown told Yahoo News Australia she didn't think horses in NSW would be gunned down in this manner. Source: Supplied
Ms Brown told Yahoo News Australia she didn't think horses in NSW would be gunned down in this manner. Source: Supplied

Ms Brown said she was aware culling was underway on the Victorian side of the alps, but she believed control methods in NSW were largely limited to trapping.

She’s now calling on authorities to investigate and provide answers following what she describes as a “calculated attack” on her beloved horses.

Why are brumbies being removed from Kosciuszko?

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) confirmed it is “implementing wild horse control” within the park, as part of a plan it says balances heritage with conservation.

“All control measures under the plan are required to meet the highest possible animal welfare standards. These standards are being met,” a NPWS spokesperson said.

Eleven horses were found dead and reported to Ms Brown. Source: Supplied
Eleven horses were found dead and reported to Ms Brown. Source: Supplied

NPWS did not verify whether it was responsible for the cull, and cited a policy of not releasing details of specific operations.

Brumby management continues to be a highly contentious issue in NSW and Victoria, and NPWS said withholding information helps protect its staff, contractors and visitors, as well as the welfare of wild horses.

A 2020 count estimated there were 14,380 wild horses within Kosciuszko, and NPWS has a plan to reduce their population to 3000 by June 2027, retaining them in just 32 per cent of the park.

Corroboree frogs are one of the threatened species NPWS say brumbies can impact. Source: Getty (File)
Corroboree frogs are one of the threatened species NPWS say brumbies can impact. Source: Getty (File)

The plan prioritises passive trapping and rehoming, but it does allow for on-ground shooting, although aerial culling is not permitted.

NPWS maintains concerns about the damage horses do to fragile ecosystems within the park, including their impact on threatened species like corroboree frogs, the smoky mouse and the broad-toothed rat.

It points to scientific studies which found the horses are “causing significant negative impact”, resulting in erosion and the trampling of habitat.

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