Brumby numbers don’t add up

Claims of 14,000 brumbies in the Kosciuszko National Park are being disputed.
Claims of 14,000 brumbies in the Kosciuszko National Park are being disputed.

Claims of 14,000 wild horses running rampant through the Kosciuszko National Park are being disputed locally with a community meeting planned to decipher the true number of brumbies in the park.

A study released last week in which Australian National University Adjunct Fellow Dr Graeme Worboys stated there were an estimated 14,000 horses in the Mount Pilot Wilderness area of the Kosciuszko National Park has left horsemen and women who frequent the park skeptical.

Experienced horseman, Alan Lanyon, will host a community meeting regarding the matter within the next two weeks and claims the numbers that are contained in Dr Worboys’ study simply do not add up.

“We will hold a public meeting to canvas community support with the aim of bringing National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to the table some time in the future to tell us a few truths,” Mr Lanyon said. “Claims the horse population is causing huge damage and the amount of horses this study claims are in the park does not line up with the estimates the NPWS themselves have given.”

In the NPWS Horse Management Plan for Kosciuszko National Park, research conducted from 1999 until 2002 estimated the total population of horses in the Kosciuszko National Park was 3000.

A study survey of horse numbers in 2005 using similar methods estimated that the population of horses in the southern part of Kosciuszko was 590 and the northern end had about 1120, giving a total of 1,700 horses in the park.
In May 2013 Murrumbidgee Area Manager for NPWS, Steve Cathcart, told the Times; “The Aerial survey indicated that over 5,000 wild horses inhabit the area. The population is growing by about 20pc per year since 2003.”

But Dr Worboys’ widely-reported study estimated 14,000 horses inhabited just a 43 kilometre area at Mt Pilot.

Mr Lanyon said the huge jump in estimated horse numbers just can’t be correct and is calling for NPWS to initiate an independent count of brumbies in the park.

“Horses are not prolific breeders,” Mr Lanyon said. “There may be a few more around due to good seasons but if there were as many about as they claim, you would be seeing horses everywhere.

“I don’t believe these figures. We need an independent head count and a comprehensive statement of the conditions of the mobs. We need to get solid number from the NPWS and also solid plans on how they plan to cull.”

Adaminaby tourist operator Peter Cochran, who operates horse rides through the park, last week also disputed the numbers in the study.

Control of horses in the park began in the early 1970s with a licensed horse roping and brumby running program, however concerns over the inhumane practice and the adoption of the Plan of Management in 1982 resulted in the practice being banned.

In 2000 in response to legislative responsibilities, the Snowy Mountains Region of the NPWS began to prepare a horse management plan to protect the alpine area of the Park. The plan was released and implemented in 2003.

In 2006 a Plan of Management for Kosciuszko National Park was formally adopted and one of its objectives is to reduce the distribution and abundance of introduced animal species found in the Park.

The Plan of Management called for the exclusion of horses from key areas and for a Feral Horse Management Plan to be prepared for the whole of the Park.

On average between 300 to 400 horses each year have been removed from Kosciuszko National Park since the plan was implemented.

With no horse meat market currently available for the horses who are still being trapped, questions are being raised to the fate of these wild horses.

Currently in the Northern Territory, an aerial cull of 10,000 horses on Tempe Downs Station is planned as a means to eliminate an abundance of horses on a private property. Mr Cochran expressed concerns NSW could easily follow.

In 2000 over three days in the Guy Fawkes National Park 606 brumbies were killed in a planned aerial shooting cull.

A negative backlashed ensued and aerial culling has not be carried out in NSW since.

A rally on August 21 on the steps of Parliament House will convey the fears of people who are against the aerial culls, and to petition the Government for legislative change to stop any slaughter of the horses.

“It has not been ruled out using aerial culling here,” Mr Lanyon said. “I personally can’t imagine Barry O’Farrell being silly enough to allow aerial culling though. We just want the truth about horse numbers and to talk about methods of lowering the numbers.

“The truth has been coated with bull-dust for years.”

The aim behind the community meeting is to engage the broader community in the issue and educate those may have an interest in brumbies in the park.

“After reading the article in the Times on May 28 about the amount of damage the horses were doing, people get worried,” Mr Lanyon said. “People who know horses understand that bog areas are not areas you can easily get horses to go into, let alone them going in by themselves.

“This campaign to cull more horses is being run on emotion and guilt. We want to get the truth out there.”

Mr Lanyon has plenty of alternate and humane methods for dealing with the wild horses, should the amount of them be classified as too many.

His ideas include on the ground culling by an experienced marksman who would be accompanied by an RSPCA representative, with horses culled being only those that are sick, too old or that are struggling.

Random shooting and trapping the horses are not the way forward, according to Mr Lanyon.

“Over the years I have seen horses shot,” he said. “There needs to be an alternative.

“The horse population needs to be managed the same as you would if on a property. Scratch a line on the concrete and start from there.

“There are better ways instead of mass indiscriminate slaughtering or trapping these animals and putting them in yards and onto trucks where their natural response is to flee and fight.”

The date of the community meeting regarding wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park will be announced in Friday’s paper with anyone with ideas or concerns to call Alan Lanyon on 0429030148.