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Call for new path over brumby control

April 2, 2010

Yearling brumby filly Snippets, who was captured from the Kosciuszko National Park by passive trapping. Snippets is among brumbies for sale by the Victorian Brumby Association.

A horse welfare group has called for a new approach to brumby control, as a report shows growing numbers in Australia's Greater Alpine National Park.

The Australian Brumby Alliance says a recent report on wild horse numbers highlights the need to monitor impacts from all introduced species, not just horses.

"Why is there no comparison of horse numbers with other species capable of a negative impact on the Park such as cattle, pigs, goats dogs," the alliance said.

It said it appreciated the Dawson report's attempt to understand the complex issues involved, but said further research was needed to identify horse numbers able to co-exist in the environment, as happened for more than 100 years before the area was proclaimed a park in 1944.

The alliance urged the New South Wales and Victorian governments, which have jurisdiction over different parts of the park, to find a humane, long term, approach for all species considered over-abundant.

The report concludes there are 7700 brumbies over the area of the larger park - some 2.6 million acres - although the figure is only accurate to within 25 per cent.

The current management model would not allow removal of 1500 brumbies a year - the estimated population growth - and there is currently no market for such numbers. The end result are culls.

The alliance said it supported the report's view that brumby management controls are complex due to the historical significance of the horses, and that "effective, acceptable control methods are yet to be identified".

However, the group said it had been unable to gain access to liaison/advice committee groups that advise on horse management.

It said groups within the alliance had developed technical skills in humane trapping, taming and rehoming over several years.

The group urged the government to "truly recognize the brumby's cultural heritage value by assisting rehoming charities".

"It costs around $A20,000 to set up infrastructure for trucking, fencing, pen/crush gelding and feed."

The group re-stated its opposition to the practice of brumby running, a method of capture where horses are roped from horseback and forced back to a central location for later collection. It is also opposed by the Australian SPCA.

"The Dawson Report should be a signal to governments that new directions need to be taken. But the Australian Brumby Alliance fears the report statistics will once again trigger a knee-jerk reaction back to bullets.

"How many lethal culls will it take to realise they are not the answer to population control? On the surface, the problem seems solved but soon numbers are back and another lethal cull is commissioned.

"This report advises 'other management techniques such as fertility control need further investigation for their efficacy in alpine regions'.

"Critics say fertility control for brumbies will not reduce vast brumby numbers and is therefore not worth pursuing or too costly. But let's look at the facts.

"No funding is allocated to brumby fertility control, making it impossible to progress this option. PZP fertility control vaccine, used on American mustangs, is available now and delivered by a dart gun.

"Other vaccines have promise but the greatest challenge is the lack of political will and funding to advance research and programmes in this area."

It said it wanted fertility control trials conducted in areas of the park.

"These solutions are not a quick fix, but without investing true long-term solutions we are not moving forward to the 22nd century but reverting back to the 19th century in terms of ethical, humane and effective control of over-abundant species."

The Victorian Brumby Association said wild populations of brumbies in Australia have been either mismanaged or not managed at all for more than 100 years.

"Numbers need to be responsibly managed," it said.

It said the use of aerial culling used in some parts of Australia was inhumane and cruel.

"Setting aside regions where Brumbies can be humanely managed in the wild would ensure that future generations of Australians will have the opportunity to see brumbies running free."

President Colleen O'Brien said: "Other options of population control need to be investigated thoroughly in order to manage the brumbies throughout Victoria and NSW effectively and humanely within RSPCA guidelines."

"The VBA is genuinely frightened for our brumbies and fear that if the Parks Associations can encourage people to see the current brumby population and forecast figures as a problem, it could win public support for employing methods other than the RSPCA approved ones of passive trapping and fertility control."



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