Two contrasting photos from the popular Kosciuszko National Park have highlighted what's been described as just the "tip of the iceberg" of a deadly problem affecting Australia’s wildlife.
One picture shows an untouched pond nestled into the Snowy Mountains park, teeming with life. The other shows the near identical landscape, only it's been "trashed" by feral brumbies.
Author and journalist Anthony Sharwood said he will keep sharing the images – which highlight the natural destruction caused by the wild horses – until the government finally acts amid an ongoing battle that has quietly raged for years.
"I’ll never stop sharing my pics of two ponds, one trashed by hard-hooved animals, one not," he posted online on Wednesday.
"Alpine wetlands provide corroboree frog habitat and are sponges ensuring our streams never stop running. How can patriots with Aussie flag avatars care more about imported horses than this?"
His comments come as the NSW government this week moved a step closer to approving the aerial shooting of wild brumbies in the national park in a bid to curb the surging population. The government is seeking feedback on the controversial management plan and argues it must cut the 23,000 brumby population to 3,000 by mid-2027
Why are brumbies so bad for the environment?
Advocacy manager for the Invasive Species Council, Jack Gough, thinks the brumbies are having "devastating consequences" on our native species and "turning [the national park] into a horse paddock".
"That environment never evolved with hard-hooved, heavy herbivores," he told Yahoo News Australia. And so feral horses with those hooves cut up that landscape, and damage and pollute the banks of streams.
"When I was up in the park a month or so back, you can't walk 30 metres without seeing just piles and piles of horse dung."
Recently the Threatened Species Scientific Commission said "feral horses could be the final nail in the coffin for 12 of our native species up in the Australian Alps," which include three frogs, four fish, four reptiles and one mammal. Mr Gough said species like the corroboree frog and the mountain pygmy possum, which are found nowhere else on earth, are on the brink of extinction.
Brumby activists says aerial culling is 'heartless'
Given how pressing the issue is, it's unclear why the government hasn't acted sooner — something Mr Gough thinks is related to the backlash from a "small vocal minority" who believe brumbies to be an important part of Australian history.
Brumby activists have long opposed stricter control measures. Animals Liberation CEO Lynda Stoner opposes the new plan, calling shooting from the air heartless.
"We all know of cases where brumbies have been aerial shot and left wounded and dying for a long time and it's a very blasé way of killing any animal," Ms Stoner told AAP.
Authorities prioritise passive trapping and rehoming, while shooting from the ground is also permitted but aerial culls are currently banned.
"To be clear, we know no one likes seeing animals killed. But the sad reality is that we have a choice to make," Mr Gough said.
"And that choice is between rapidly reducing the number of feral horses that are trashing and trampling Kosciuszko National Park, or seeing the decline in our native species and one of the most sensitive and iconic alpine environments in Australia damaged and degraded beyond repair."
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