2 March 2020

Opponents of Kosciusko brumby cull demand post-fire recount

| Elka Wood
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Brumbies captured post-fire by Cooma photographer Michelle Brown

Brumbies captured post-fire by Cooma photographer Michelle Brown. Photo: Michelle J Photography.

NSW Minister for Environment Matt Kean hs announced that brumby numbers in Kosciusko National Park will be reduced substantially, with as many as 4,000 out of an estimated total of 20,000 horses due to be rehomed or culled.

The move comes as a bushfire recovery measure, with a NSW Government spokesperson confirming that advice from the Community Advisory Panel and the Science Advisory Panel “supports the need for urgent post-bushfire action to control horses in the sensitive areas of Kosciuszko National Park, which is necessary to protect the environment as it recovers from the fire”.

Approximately 57,000 ha have been prioritised for control in three northern parts of the park, including Nungar Plain, Cooleman Plain, and parts of Boggy and Kiandra Plains.

“These areas contain a range of values including threatened species and sensitive ecological communities which are most vulnerable to trampling and other impacts of horses. They also include areas with a high risk of collision between horses and vehicles. This will not have a significant impact on areas where horses have heritage value and are likely to be retained under long-term management of the park,” the spokesperson says.

But not everyone agrees with the measures, with locals arguing that more horses died in the fires or were humanely euthanised by National Parks staff the immediate aftermath than has been publically acknowledged.

“National Parks have not released how many horses were euthanised after the fires,” says Cooma resident and photographer Michelle Brown of Michelle J Photography.

“As far as we know, counts are taken every five years and the last aerial count was taken in 2019. We want a post-fire brumby count and we want it now. I don’t think there’s a total of 4,000 horses in the whole park after the fire, let alone the 20,000 the government is claiming are there.”

Brown reports seeing many dead horses on her frequent visits to the park after the fire.

Dead horses killed by fire

Cooma photographer and brumby advocate Michelle Brown took photos of some of the horses which died in the fires. Photo: Michelle J Photography.

“I’ve gone into the park on foot two to three times a week since the fires and I’d estimate there are between 2,500 and 3,200 horses in the whole park.”

According to Brown, the fact that the horses move around so much means that horses from surrounding nature reserves like Jingellic Nature Reserve, Bogandyera Nature Reserve and Clarkes Hill Nature Reserve were counted as being part of the Kosciusko population.

While not an official count, members of the Invasive Species Council, along with ANU Environment Professor Jamie Pittock, flew over burnt areas of the park in late January and took footage of mobs of horses grazing on the first green shoots on open plains.

“The picture is becoming clearer as photos and video emerge from Kosciuszko National Park showing threatened species habitat hit hard while the 20,000 strong population of feral horses have largely been unscathed,” Professor Pittock says.

“Australia’s plants did not evolve to withstand trampling by hard-hooved animals or their intensive grazing.”

Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox is concerned about the concentration of brumbies in unburnt areas of the park.

“The fires that burnt 35 per cent of the park appear to have pushed the horses into a more concentrated area, increasing the trampling of wetlands, habitat of critically endangered species like the northern corroboree frog and the stocky galaxias fish.

“Horses are also returning to burnt areas following the recent rains. This will cause irreparable damage to burnt peat bogs and recovering alpine and sub-alpine vegetation.”

Brown argues that the environment has adapted to having brumbies as part of the ecosystem.

“The numbers are flawed, they’ve been flawed for years, these horses have been in this environment for 180 years, they are part of it now and they are part of our heritage. I’m appalled, it’s got to stop, this mentality to just kill everything.”

She invites anyone who doubts the numbers to come out on foot with her and see how many horses died in the fires and to see that the brumbies don’t need to be culled for humane reasons.

“The horses are fine, they are not starving, the treeline is burnt out but the plains are recovering and green. They have plenty of feed and so do all the other animals,” she says.

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Further to the growing list of objections to the brumby aerial culling, i would appreciate you asking parliament how they propose to deal with all the dead brumby carcasses. If these carcasses are not collected and removed (by the people that did the shooting!) then this will lead to an oversupply of food for the scavenger populations.

Thereby requiring another poorly considered “resolution” to the “new” problem, which will no doubt result in a poisonous baiting programme.

No, the ACT/LAW should be modified to include the collection of all brumby carcasses by the cowboy Flyers & Shooters that did the killing.
if the law is modified as suggested, no one will do the culling.

Let me make something absolutely clear to the other commenters.
Wild horses ABSOLUTELY NEED to be removed from Kosciozko and other National Parks, lethally or not, doesn’t matter. I totally agree with the scientists, who have presented credilbe evidence of the impacts of wild horses on the environment, and I don’t understand why people distrust them so much. The brumby counts are only an estimation, as all things in science are. NOTHING science predicts is 100% accurate, but science is the ONLY thing that can give reliable evidence of how our world works, not religion, politics or personal opinion.

Now I understand why you would want to endorse the protection of one feral species over dozens or hundreds of threatened native ones, but there are simly better way to conserve cultural heritage like wild horses. A few examples include collaboration between environment organisations and local farmers to relocate as many wild horses before an aerial shoot, and/or establishing brumby reserves from old ranches and farmland, without impacting native ecosystems. And aerial shooting is not as inhumane death as everyone makes it out to be, certainly compared to disease, predators, breaking legs, starving, drought, and of course fire, aka. pretty much anything that could kill a horse in the natural environment. Nature is not merciful.

There should definitely be a head count!! Nobody would know how many BRUMBIES there are after the FIRES!
And no horse should have to go on trucks to the SLAUGHTERHOUSE!! These are our heritage horses

Leave the Brumbies alone!!! Do not cull!!!!!

Dianna Colbeck4:55 pm 09 Jun 20

So Many Brumbies and other Wildlife perished in the Bushfires end 2019/2020.
Another Count is needed to protect the one’s that are left.Brumbies need to Live in Peace. Do a Count on Feral Pigs and Deer and you will see they are the Problem. Thank You.

Bronwyn Evans2:37 pm 09 Jun 20

We NEED an urgent.. VERIFIABLE.. independent RECOUNT.. No mathematical manipulation.. with the outrageous claims pre fires now PROVEN totally FALSE with NO MASSIVE HERDS seen since fires on grasslands they SAVED.. and tree CANOPY now BURNT we’ve seen NONE of THESE numbers either LOOKING for FEED or in PILES if mass bodies..!!! SINCE FIRES number of normally seen SMALL GROUPS regularly seen and documented are MIA.. Groups of bodies in BURNT timber have been seen and recorded.. but not HUNDREDS or even thousands.. as government and parks claimed prefires.. We must to MANAGE the environment have accurate RECOUNT and these claims of population expansion must stop.. given that ONLY 4% increase is the normal and reliable.. they don’t breed like PIGS or RABBITS or even DEER..
So PLEASE stop the ANTI BRUMBY propaganda and actually learn the benefits that HORSES bring.. with 1.6 acre per horse to be sustainable.. that means that 1,000 approximately left can easily be humanely managed WITHOUT any need for slaughter..
Given the destruction and IMPACTS humans are DOING to the FRAGILE ALPINE ENVIRONMENT with SKI RESORTS AND SNOW FIELDS mountain bike tracks.. carparking.. snow making water needs and infrastructures.. to native vegetation versus the FEW hoofprints and grass they eat.. it is illogical to BLAME HORSES.. The FUNGUS BROUGHT by humans from overseas to ALPINE ENVIRONMENT for OUR pleasure OUR NEEDS and greed has killed the frogs.. Not hoofprints.. that leaves less impacts than deer and pigs.. if you remember your physics classes at high school..
Start actually reading research that now SUPPORTS HORSES in environment and their vital role in its HEALTH..

I wonder why there can’t be a more hands on approach to our brumbies. Why cant there can’t be an annual collection of yearlings to be re homed as working horses. Keep an eye on their health and well being. A bit like they manage the wild ponies in other parts of the world?
Why do we need to kill them? I am sure they could be managed better and still remain free.

Elizabeth Burgess9:11 am 09 Jun 20

Leave Our Beautiful, Majestic Brumbies

Alone. Do Not Shoot , Poison or send anywhere for slaughter.

They Belong to Our Heritage, in our lives .
They are Australian.

Karen Kozlik4:24 pm 08 Jun 20

I demand a recount, it is the fair and obvious thing to do before any decisions on culling are made

Kerry Hutchesson3:33 pm 08 Jun 20

leave them alone.
The fires were?not because of brumbys.
more likely because of culling them they eat out the undergrowth just like cattle in the high country!!!
Setting us up for more deveastating fires that will wipe out more wildlife and people!

Suzanne Manson1:53 pm 08 Jun 20

I totally agree with Michelle Brown. She, and many others , travel frequently to the park and know the areas the brumbies frequent. If she says there are only 2,500 – 3,200 brumbies in the whole park, than I believe she is right and that a post fire count must be done now. The photos I have seen, taken since the fires, show lots of healthy regrowth on the plains. Creeks are running with clear water and small animals are in abundance. The plan to trap and remove horses from the park must be stopped until a new survey is carried out with at least one person from the brumby groups involved to ensure transparency.

Meagan Hughes10:44 am 08 Jun 20

A recount is demanded now and leave our beautiful brumbies alone to live in the Park as they have for many years. Far more damage is done by many other animals living in the Park ,a brumby isn’t capable of causing that much damage, and it is always all blamed in the brumbies. These horses are a National Icon and deserve to live in peace, not be senselessly shot – other ways of controlling their numbers must be used once a count is done, if necessary. Infertility injections can be given like they are successfully used overseas and would reduce the numbers if required. These Brumbies are so loved in Australia and deserve better than to be cruelly culled, this is absolutely disgusting and cruel, stop shooting now.

Joanne Canning9:44 am 08 Jun 20

The estimation/ so called count – according to the review was less than 20% accurate! And the so called estimate of population increase in Kosciuszko was 38%!! Even thought the maximum is considered to be around 20%. So 38% is clearly inaccurate. And this was before the fires if course which would have certainly reduced the number even more! Is it fair to murder these horses on a less than 20% accuracy report with supposed increases that are totally unrealistic even according to the review!
The population can also be controlled (if necessary) by contraception and there are local people trained and offering to do it! Disgrace! The environmental accusations are also incorrect and show insufficient knowledge of horse behaviour.

Susan Watson1:17 am 08 Jun 20

Recount of everything!

Sharon Noble7:09 pm 07 Jun 20

New investigation needs to be done after the fires. No way could all of the horses survived after the fires.
Think about what you are doing . Barbaric!!

Sarah Jackson1:54 pm 07 Jun 20

Recount – no brainer

There Absolutely needs to be an honest recount, the fires have done a mass cull of everything in its path. The thort of culling something that’s lived in the mountains for at least 140 trs makes me absolutely Ashamed to be Australian It’s inhuman & absolutely unacceptable 😡😡Just leave them alone, they also reduce fire fuel as well as fertilise the land. They have more right & more purpose being there than people do

Elisabeth fleming8:55 pm 19 May 20

These horses are a part of that environment now. Leave them alone.

These government departments need to listen and liase with the people that actually spend time in our NPs photographing and immersing themselves into the rhythms of nature. They have valuable input and should be included in discussion and decisions about what needs to be done, their insight and management strategies could help solve the problems that someone in an office or helicopter just can’t.

Charles Parker7:32 pm 04 Mar 20

Do a recount immediately. Also count the pigs and deer. You will then find where the problem is.

JILLIAN KEUNING10:27 am 04 Mar 20

There is no way that 25,000 horses are in the park…if there was there’d be no elbow room to move. I agree with Michelle.. numbers do need to be managed however… the ongoing and relentless push for culling all the animals in the park is unacceptable. It is wrong plain and simple. Cox and Swain march to the best of their own drum. Relaying the message that the horses are ‘trampling’ (horses walk they don’t trample) and all congregating where the new feed is, is the worst atrocity that could happen! They must really think we are so ignorant to believe that the grasses will never return? That not one brumby perished in the wildfires and fire storms? Richard Swain promotes his business with ‘see a snowy brumby’ in his kayaking business.. but he too screams foul. The sphagnum moss beds are burned dry. The Corroboree frog buries itself deep within the earth in times of danger and peril. Horses don’t dig up the ground where these lovely frogs reside. Pigs do. The frog has a toxin in the skin that deters any animal from eating it, however, the deep rough digging motion of the pigs numbered in the hundreds of thousands does! These people know this as fact and yet, will never come to the table to reach an agreement. The horses and environment have co-existed in the park for over 150 years; Long before this area was declared a park in 1967!Both change and adapt to suit each other and the symbiotic relationship is there. The continuation of passive trapping and future discussion re viability of sterilization as an option in number management is the most logical and sensible way of keeping a sustainable number of all animals in the park. Horses are not cannibals. ridiculous nothion that there are even 4,000 in the park.. They call it number management. The locals indigenous and whites call it annihilation; and it’s wrong.

Rosemary McCallum8:45 pm 17 May 20

So agree with you. Pigs cause unbelievable devastation – horses when not contained in a paddock move frequently during the day so that there isn’t overgrazing. I don’t know why people who are not locals always have a dogmatic uninformed opinion of what is going on. Or they only will listen to the people who are not locals, do not live year-round in the area to see what the impact of the horses is or is not. Let’s face it most of the horses that are captured will go to the doggers – may be kinder to shoot them than put them through that terror. I find it incredulous that these people do not consult and listen to the indigenous people who have walked this land for thousands of years. If they say the horses aren’t causing the problem I can’t see what the argument is. Rosemary McCallum

Linda Jenkins2:33 pm 03 Mar 20

I would trust the voices/photography of Ian and Michelle Brown, they are the ones who travel into and around KNP. Their photos show the true numbers of the brumbies.
The damage to the environment is caused by feral pigs and deer. By all means cull them.

There is an urgent need for a recount. It’s time for pro and anti groups to do this together. It needs to have a neutral umpire who is not biased either way to oversee the count. It’s time for the killing spree to stop and some sense entee into the equation.

JILLIAN KEUNING10:28 am 04 Mar 20


To the editor, I am surprised such a narrow range of animals has been set. What about addressing the feral pigs and the damage they cause? And the feral deer numbers are outrageous, and also they eat every species of plant not just the grasses. The Invasive Species Council and the ANU would be seriously considering putting as much promotion and resources into the eradication of these 2 species as to they have on advertising the brumby cull.
If they are considering brumbies as feral , then ALL other feral species should be in the same report. They are all in the same area , they are using the same resources and they are all breathing the same air.
Thank you
Lucy Fisher

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