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Video: Aerial cull of Lake Gregory horses called off

September 24, 2010

By Neil Clarkson

A planned aerial cull of wild horses around Lake Gregory in Western Australia has been called off following a campaign by backers who argue there is a better way of managing the horses.

Above and below, horses from the
Lake Gregory area.

The news has been welcomed by Animals Australia and the Wild Horses Kimberley group, both of which have fought hard to save the horses.

Animals Australia communications director Lyn White said more than 8100 people had joined the online campaign in support of the horses, and she offered her organisation's sincerest thanks.

White said Western Australia's Indigenous Affairs Minister Kim Hames had been inundated with protest letters and emails appealing for a non-lethal solution.

The minister has now decided to call off the aerial cull, set to start in October.

Instead, Hames has said an aerial survey will be conducted to provide an accurate count of the horses. Then, an expert committee will be convened to find non-lethal means to reduce the horse population on the station around Lake Gregory, which is in the Kimberley region.

White applauded the minister's decision. "We hope it heralds some new thinking about the way wild horses and other 'feral' animals are managed in the future," she said.

Supporters rallied in June when plans to truck the horses huge distances to a slaughterhouse in South Australia were revealed.

That plan was abandoned, with the state government then proposing an aerial cull.

Animals Australia said it would continue to closely monitor the situation at Lake Gregory and the future plans for the horses. It invited supporters of the horses to thank the minister for his decision (details below).

Libby Lovegrove, who first brought the plight of the Lake Gregory horses to public attention, welcomed the news of a proper aerial count and moves to properly manage and care for the horses.

"Thank you to everyone for all your help to bring this wonderful outcome in to being," she said.

Lovegrove started Wild Horses Kimberley in 2006, when it was discovered that many of the wild horses in the Kimberley region were being culled or sold off for pet meat.

Animal advocate Linda Mira-Bateman said the decision by the state government had acknowledged the concerns of thousands of people who opposed the plan for an aerial slaughter.

"This has been a sustained and harrowing campaign," she said. "First, the urgent campaign to save the horses from being rounded up and transported thousands of kilometres be slaughtered, and then to prevent the aerial slaughter of the horses."

She praised the decision-makers "for having the courage to listen and to change direction".

"I would like to acknowledge and give heart-felt thanks to Libby Lovegrove, of Wild Horse Kimberley, who has worked so hard and never gave up on these horses.

"Getting the authorities to look at compassionate options is at best challenging, and at times impossible. It takes courage, persistence and dedication to keep fighting for a better outcome for each and every animal."

She also praised Animals Australia for getting behind the campaign, and those individuals who offered their support in the thousands.

"Once again, it shows that individuals can make a difference for the fate of animals.

"As big as this result is, it is just the start.

"Thousands and thousands of animals are labelled as 'feral' or 'pest' in Australia and subject to terrible cruelty in the name of population management. It is time to say no to this and insist that governments look at non-lethal, long-term, compassionate and sustainable management where needed," Mira-Bateman said.

Lovegrove has a vision of a Brumby Sanctuary around Lake Gregory to provide the horses with a long-term, sustainable future.

"The horses at Lake Gregory, with their Arab bloodlines and other small groups of Timor derivative ponies, are unique to our heritage as well as being very beautiful and a real pleasure to see.

"We maintain that the area could become a Brumby Sanctuary with up to 12-15 fulltime jobs and provide a lucrative income for the Mulan community, with upgrades to their infrastructure, shop, housing and other facilities.

"With training in horsemanship, they could manage horse trekking around the lake and campsites for tourists wishing to view the horses as well as the prolific bird life.

"As a tourist destination, the employment and training opportunities are endless and offer a lucrative future.

"It only needs some lateral thinking by our politicians to achieve this."



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