Hundreds of part-Arab wild horses under cull threat

October 10, 2009


Wild horses in the Lake Gregory area.

Hundreds of wild horses in Western Australian with strong Arabian bloodlines may be lost in a cull, a campaigner for the animals fears.

There are more than 5000 wild horses living over the area from Bililuna to Balgo, mostly around Lake Gregory, a 100km-wide freshwater lake formed from the Sturt Creek, which has its origins in the Northern Territory.

Libby Lovegrove, of Broome, who has campaigned for the welfare of the horses, fears upcoming changes to land ownership will result in a major cull of the animals.

"That is, at the end of next year, any horses remaining at the lake will be shot from the air by snipers in helicopters, to clear the lake and probably put the area up for private sale.

"Conservationists are more intent on preserving the lake than the horses and have more power in government, although from what I have seen it's the cattle that do all the damage."

The end result, she believes, will be a "bloodbath" similar to a cull undertaken at Frazier Downs last year. Some animals died slow deaths from injuries arising that that cull, she says.

Lovegrove says the Lake Gregory horses have good bloodlines.

"They were bred from two purebred Arab stallions taken to Balgo in the 1950s by Father John Macquire, who was something of a horseman himself.

"They bred with stock horses from Bililuna Station, some of which had the desired Percheron bloodlines to give them strong bones.

"Now the horses have been running wild for years and have developed all the skills and endurance physical capabilities that are so valued by the racing, endurance and jumping competitors."

Lovegrove and her supporters want to save as many of the horses as possible.

"We need to bring in some of the Lake Gregory horses as soon as possible," she says. "The cost to muster and transport 20 yearlings to Broome is $A2500 to muster and $A2500 to transport.

"I can pay for that but I need a holding paddock to keep them in until they are sold," she explains.

Sales of the first 20 would pay for the next 20, she says.

Lovegrove says the wild horses include palominos, paints and cremellos.

"The Arab influence can be seen in their floating movement, arched necks and tails and intelligent, curious approach," she told Horsetalk.

"Other horses at Lake Gregory display the long-legged thoroughbred-types bred as racehorses, and the heavier Andalusian types bred from introducing Percherons at Bililuna."

Their quality and worth was highlighted two years ago when a veterinarian for Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, headed to the area and removed 13 horses, which were rehomed to air-conditioned stables in Dubai for endurance work and breeding.

"The acknowledgement of the quality of these horses was a real breakthrough," Lovegrove says.

The Lake Gregory area covers about 270,000ha and is considered a wetland of national and international importance.