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Australia to restart aerial shooting of wild horses

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia approved yesterday the aerial shooting of wild horses in one of the country’s largest national parks, resuming a contentious practice that authorities described as “essential” to protect native wildlife.

An estimated 19,000 wild horses – known locally as “brumbies” – live in Kosciuszko National Park, a number that has increased by a third in the last two years.

New South Wales state authorities want to cut the population to 3,000 by mid-2027.

The national park already traps, re-homes and shoots horses from the ground, but the state’s Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said this was not enough.

“Threatened native species are in danger of extinction and the entire ecosystem is under threat,” she said. “We must take action.

“This was not an easy decision – no one wants to have to kill wild horses,” she added.

Aerial shooting from helicopters was used for a brief period in 2000, when more than 600 wild horses were shot over three days.

But a fierce public backlash resulted in the method being banned.

Those against culling say the horses are part of Australia’s national identity, a nostalgic reminder of the days when tough stockmen and women worked in the country’s rugged Snowy Mountains. Brumbies are thought to have descended from horses that escaped or were abandoned around the early 1800s.

A storied rugby team in the country’s capital Canberra is named after the animal.

They were celebrated by the Australian “bush poet” Banjo Paterson, who waxed lyrical about a “wild, unhandled” creature who roamed the mountains “’neath moon and star”.

A horse is pictured at a protest over the culling of Australian brumby horse in Melbourne. PHOTO: AFP