Wild horses roam freely on a ranch near Ft. Pierre, SD. Location:	Ft. Pierre, Dakota.
Scientists say wild horses in the Snowy Mountains are too numerous and should have been culledJOEL SARTORE/National Geograph

The wild horses in the Snowy Mountains of Australia have 'turned to cannibalism' in a desperate bid to survive in the Outback.

Ecologists Dr Don Driscoll and Dr Sam Banks came across a dead horse with a huge hole in its stomach while on a camping trip at Kosciuszko National Park between New South Wales and Victoria last month.

"Its intestines appeared to have been nibbled out. It wasn't clear what could have caused the damage," Driscoll, from the Australian National University, told Daily Mail Australia.

But the next day on the way down the hill at Dead Horse Gap they found three emaciated horses standing near the dead brumby with their snouts in the carcass of the animal, "nibbling at what little remained of its digestive tract".

Despite being herbivores, Driscoll surmised the horses had no other choice but to resort to eating each other to survive.

"It was obvious they were being pushed to eat the entrails of the dead horse.

"I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures in the horse world."

In the academic website, The Conversation, the scientists wrote: "As far as we are aware, this behaviour has never been documented before. The noble brumbies of the silver screen have been reduced to starving cannibals in Kosciuszko National Park."

They blame the deteriorating situation of wild horses on a decision made in 2008. The Kosciuszko National Park Horse Management Community Steering Group ruled out aerial shooting of horses as a culling strategy; Driscoll and Banks say this has left the animals starving to death and resorting to eating each other.

The surge in brumbies - estimated around 7,000 to 11,000 - has also had a devastating impact on the environment and surrounding habitats.

"No one has measured the effects of horses on the mammals or other animals of Kosciuszko National Park. Nevertheless, the evidence available already, from Australia and overseas, is enough to demonstrate that large numbers of feral horses are not compatible with the natural values of national parks or wilderness areas."

The pair now welcome the current review of the Wild Horse Management Plan for Kosciuszko National Park.

"Whatever the initial population, deaths from starvation, poisoning and dehydration are likely to be two to five times higher if aerial culling isn't included in management," they said.