Author – Joanne Canning, BSc Equine Sports Science, HND Equine Sports Coaching, BHSII
The fight to save the wild horses in the USA and Australia has of course been going on for many years. However the current situation in the regions of NSW and Victoria is very different from that in previous years and for those who remember the incident, is reminiscent of the horrendous slaughter by aerial shooting of wild horses in the Guy Fawkes National Park in the year 2000. The horrendous video footage and photographs of this incident, once seen, can never be forgotten! Men in helicopters with rifles chasing wild horses galloping flat-out and shooting at them to kill them. Horses were shot several times in various places of the body, and very many died a gruesome death. This aerial cull was conducted by National Parks and Wildlife Service. The results of this cull provoked such public outrage, that aerial shooting of Brumbies (Wild Horses) in NSW was banned – a ban that stands today- AT PRESENT! The RSPCA brought charges against NPWS alleging cruelty to animals; however these charges were dropped, in favour of a guilty plea by NPWS.
On an annual basis, horses have been removed from the national parks at anything up to 600 per year and most of these horses have ended up at slaughterhouses. Slaughterhouses that just recently have had legal proceedings bought against them for barbaric cruelty! The Brumby support groups and locals have been attempting to stop this for a long time and in 2018, legislation was brought in, in NSW, to recognise the heritage value of these horses. And in this area, over the last couple of years it has helped to protect the horses. However this situation has now changed drastically. In Victoria the Brumby supporters took the parks to court to try and obtain the same recognition of the heritage value that had been done in NSW. This was however unsuccessful.
The anti Brumby lobby in Australia is well established and extremely well funded. And in fact the discrimination applies to all non-native animals, who are literally considered an invasive species and are all condemned to death on this basis. The vindictive nature of these people seems to, certainly where the Brumbies are concerned, have become a real hatred! Probably because of the amount of public support that the Brumbies have. Mass slaughter of all non-native animals in the national parks seems to be a major agenda, in spite of the massive destruction in these parks by humans, building ski resorts, roads and dams and allowing four-wheel-drive vehicles and quad bikes to cause massive damage.
The wild horses, who are constantly referred to as feral horses because it makes them sound more worthless, are accused of destroying the habitat of two endangered species, one being a rare frog, that in fact has been destroyed by a fungus and the broad toothed rat. They are also accused of destroying moss areas and banks of the streams. It is important to remember that these parks house a massive population of wild deer and wild boar and in spite of the recognition that these other animals are doing most of this damage, the horses have become the scapegoat because they are an easier “target”. It seems that throughout the education system in Australia the students are brainwashed, especially anyone studying ecology, to think that all non-native species are the destroyers of the environment, in spite of the many projects throughout Europe using horses for rewilding and helping the environment. Horses are now considered a keystone species in the environment and in recent research, they were found to be able to help save the planet by saving the permafrost and therefore staving off global warming!
In spite of the reports and studies by environmentalists and ecologists that have been produced in support of the wild horses, these are chosen to be ignored!
A world leading wildlife ecologist Craig Downer alone and together with reporter Mae Lee Sun have written articles and made radio broadcasts in support of the Brumbies. He has pointed out all the advantages they bring to the environment, for example- “the modern-day horse (Equus caballus) – They are restorers of balance in ecosystems, complementing ruminants and replenishing overgrazed soils, turning them into “living sponges” that equitably release life-giving water throughout the year. They are amazing gardeners who sow a great variety of seeds far and wide and provide them with fertile beds to enable their successful germination through their humus-enriching droppings.”
“Though they do not have the same deep evolutionary roots in Australia as do the marsupial mammals such as kangaroos, their roots are quite deep on Earth and they have compatibly lived alongside marsupials in South America and elsewhere for millions of years. They can harmoniously adapt and co-exist with more deeply native Australian fauna and flora. We people just have to give them the chance to show how it’s done, rather than negatively prejudging them.
During this era of Global Warming, it’s crucially important to recognize the critical life-saving value of Brumbies in mitigating and even preventing catastrophic wildfires. And I need not remind you of how devastating these have recently been.” – Craig Downer.
And in the words of Mae Lee Sun –
“It’s ironic that in the land downunder, which birthed permaculture- a holistic form of land management that focuses on ecological design meant to regenerate and integrate all of life, there also exists a backlash toward the land by those who claim to protect it. This is a case of environmental thinking gone wrong when wild horses are caught in the middle. ‘Brumbies’ evolved not only to survive but also thrive in varied habitats across this island continent, yet they continue to be patently maligned by environmental groups and ill-informed, mis-informed and head-in-the-sand ecologists.”
“Thus goes the debate, issue, conflict and war on the wild horse in Australia which has been labelled a ‘feral pest’ by environmental extremists, rendering it an enemy of the State to be harassed, tortured and slaughtered at will. The horses don’t seem to stand a chance with such obviously biased media reporting and dodgy science, which is bent solely on proving ‘damage’ to the exclusion of all positive contributions. Their point is to convince the public and those who oversee the Parks that, however minute the perceived disturbances to a habitat, such will result in the collapse of the ecosystem, whether lower river or alpine meadow, etc.
Much to these extremists’ chagrin, the ecosystem of KNP continues to thrive with those very same horses whose ancestry on the land dates back two hundred years. Alarm bells should be going off that reverberate through the mighty Snowy Mountains themselves as well as in the halls of academia and environmental consulting offices in Australia when science lacks rigour and objectivity and only canned, government-funded responses are put forth!” – Mae Lee Sun
The recent devastation by the fires in Australia has given these anti-Brumby lobbyists the perfect excuse to eradicate them. And not only have they been drumming up public support by the false accusations about supposed damage that has been done by the Brumbies , in most cases backed up by photos that clearly show wild pig damage or a photo of two brumbies walking in a more sensitive area! But also the public support has been gained by -in my opinion – sensationalism by massively exaggerating the number of Brumbies in the Parks! Having researched through hundreds of pages of official papers, I noticed what are, in my opinion some significant discrepancies. These are not difficult to spot.
As an example, according to reports, the population increase in the Kosciuszko National Park has been always previously estimated to be between 6-17% per annum. This is in fitting with scientific papers about wild horse populations from other parts of the world and Australia. From the 2 most recent aerial surveys (which then use computer modelling software) – the estimated annual population increase for the horses in one area of the Kosciuszko National Park calculated out to be 37% per annum!! And I noticed that annual removals had not been taken into account, so in fact this computes out at an increase of 42.5%!! This of course is completely unrealistic and in my opinion proves that these surveys are very unreliable. These supposed large population increases have then brought estimates of over 15,000 horses living in this part of the park and approx 19,000 in the whole park. Therefore convincing many of the public and government officials that drastic action needs to be taken to reduce the population.
However, using figures from an earlier study made in 2005, that is, a well considered and much mentioned report, I have made calculations of the estimated population in the KNP as a whole and the northern region using a population increase figure of 17% and taking into account recorded annual removals. This computes out at a total of approx 5185 horses in the whole park! – not 19,000!! And an estimated 2581in the North Region of the park – not 15,000!
The supposed large numbers that the Parks have stated has led to the anti-Brumby lobby literally plastering these numbers in all the media and internet to gain support for their actions.
Then using the excuse of the fire damage, both NSW and Victoria parks decided it would be necessary to MASSIVELY accelerate the removal/culling of horses. And knowing that the rehoming of thousands of horses would absolutely not be possible and using the excuse that just trying to trap them 10 horses at a time with lures and traps would not enable high enough numbers of horses to be removed in a short time, both parks authorities are planning that the horses will need to be shot. Victoria Parks are planning on using ground shooting with night vision and in the case of NSW, great emphasis has been put on the possibility and necessity of using aerial shooting!
Fortunately for the brumbies in the Victoria area, they have been temporarily given a short reprieve. This was brought about by a court case funded by thousands of Brumby supporters. However this is only a temporary reprieve while the court case is continuing.
In NSW it was announced that there would be a removal of up to 4000 Brumbies as quickly as possible and as it is clear that this cannot be done by trapping and removal to knackeries in a short space of time, according to reports by some of their senior advisors , this would have to involve either ground shooting of horses in the park or even aerial shooting (which a senior advisor has suggested is the most humane way!) Therefore, again the Brumby groups all contributed to enable court proceedings to be taken out against the parks authorities to try and prevent this massacre of horses! The case has today been decided against the Brumby supporters!
If there is a massacre of this very large number of horses and my calculations are nearer to the true population amounts (a 2019 spotting survey of the north of the park spotted approx 3000 Brumbies, much nearer to my calculations! – this would eliminate the vast majority of horses in the park.
They have no qualms about saying that the aim (both in Victoria and NSW) is the eventual removal of ALL THE WILD HORSES IN THE PARKS! They have also been doing massive drops of a poison 1080 all over the parks to eliminate a lot more wildlife!!
Anyone wishing to help support or contribute can do so by joining some of the supporting Brumby Groups on Facebook and signing the petitions.