21 August 2023

'Save the brumbies' but no sympathy for the pigs?

| Chris Roe
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animal warning road signs

While culling feral horses is controversial, it seems shooting pigs is not. Photo: Chris Roe/File.

The use of culling in the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan remains a divisive and highly emotional issue for many.

Intriguingly, just days after the call for horse culling went out and triggered a backlash from team brumby, the Government began advertising for a chief pig hunter to oversee the annihilation of the pesky porkers.

Was there an outcry? Did advocates rally to save the pigs and accuse the Government of over-inflating numbers and the environmental threat? Of course not. We all agree that feral pigs are a serious problem in need of a solution.

READ ALSO NSW Government seeks pig-hunter-in-chief as things get feral across the state

So why are we so divided on horses? Is it The Man From Snowy River, The Silver Brumby and tales of the Australian Light Horse?

Whatever the answer, it seems the NSW Government is unlikely to get a decisive answer after calling for feedback on a plan to resume aerial shooting to try to stay on top of the rapidly growing brumby population.

culled brumbies lying on the ground

Some 63 brumbies were culled during ground shooting earlier this year. Photo: Supplied.

In last week’s poll, we asked our readers: Should the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan be amended to allow aerial shooting?

With three options to choose from and 300 votes, the Yes and No remained in the balance as the votes rolled in.

At last count, 56 per cent agreed that Yes, brumby populations desperately need to be controlled, while the No vote was split, with 22 per cent calling for the brumbies to be entirely left alone and 22 per cent accepting that something needs to be done but aerial culling is not the answer.

Among the Facebook comments, many kept it simple, declaring “Save the Brumbies!”, while others took the time to explain their vote.

READ ALSO POLL: Should we include aerial shooting in the Kosciuszko wild horse management plan?

According to Helen, a self-described “vegetarian who grew up reading The Silver Brumby”, horses do not belong in the park and must be “removed from the fragile alpine environment”.

“We need to set aside sentimentality and recognise the damage they are doing to biodiversity,” she said.

“The other creatures that rely on that environment are just as important. If you don’t approve of aerial culling, work out how to fund and implement an alternative solution.”

Paul agreed that all options should be on the table, pointing to the “substantial environmental impacts” of the brumbies, adding that “they are also a biosecurity risk – potential carriers of Hendra virus and Japanese encephalitis. ACT, NT, and WA all cull feral horses.”

feral horses

It’s claimed that the number of feral horses is booming. Photo: File.

But Lyn was one who pushed back, pointing to recent criticism of the counting method designed by Dr Stuart Cairns.

“The true numbers by stuart cairns not 14,000 bs [brumbies] he saw 1180 that’s it,” she commented and linked to an article outlining the arguments of the anti-culling Snowy Mountain Brumby Sustainability Management Group (SMBSMG).

The group claims that the Cairns method, used by the Government to make its management decisions, is flawed and that the actual count of 1180 was incorrectly extrapolated using an algorithm.

The most recent official count of wild horses in the park, in November 2022, estimated 18,814.

In June, the SMBSMG gathered 72 people to assist with a brumby count at Long Plain and discovered only a handful of animals, dead or alive.

The Government is committed to reducing the number of horses to 3000 by 30 June, 2027.

The draft amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan proposes to “authorise aerial shooting as an available method to control wild horses, in addition to existing methods such as ground shooting, trapping and rehoming”.

You have until 11 September to have your say and you can do so here.

As for the feral pigs, it seems their time is up and if you see yourself as the first NSW Feral Pig Coordinator, you can apply for the job here.

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.

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“Whatever the answer, it seems the NSW Government is unlikely to get a decisive answer after calling for feedback on a plan to resume aerial shooting to try to stay on top of the rapidly growing brumby population.”

I would say a decisive answer was received. 82% (over 9000) supported aerial shooting of horses while only 5% (550) did not.

If we are to believe 1200 horses did all that damage to KNP then we should get rid of them all. They would be the most destructive creatures (per capita) in the park.

Philip in Narooma2:36 pm 26 Aug 23

Chris Rowe wonders why pigs don’t get the same sympathy as the Brumbies. I believe there is more to it than just a pig is less attractive than a horse, even a deer is as well!

As a Veterinarian I can see why pigs and deer are far more important than horses to eradicate from KNP. For starters pigs and deer can potentially harbour diseases that have far more serious economic issues than horses. African swine fever (ASF) in pigs is not yet in Australia, however it most likely will get here in the future. Biosecurity lapses are inevitable and one day the genie will be out of the bottle. ASF would have an enormous impact on our pig herd. There is no vaccine for this disease.

Foot and mouth disease is another disease that would have catastrophic consequences for Australia if it jumps our biosecurity. A disease of ‘cloven hoofed’ animals (in the case of KNP – deer and pigs) that would cost Australia billions of dollars in export income.

Finally, a disease that IS in Australia and requires pigs as an intermediary, is Japanese encephalitis. This disease can also infect horses and waterfowl and eventually transmit to humans through mosquitoes, however the particular mosquito is not believed to be in the alps area.

So why are pigs and deer more important than horses?:
• The economic and public health concerns are far, far greater than horses, either in KNP or the rest of Australia
• Pigs and deer will be impossible to eradicate in Australia, even to control to minimal levels.
• The environmental impact of deer and pigs on the truly ecologically important areas of KNP is not seen as easily as ‘brumbies in the plains’
• There is a significant impact by pigs and deer in those areas where brumbies are seen. The literature does not seem to address this.
• From my own observations, and looking at the ‘count history’ over 40 years, there are large anomalies that are contested.

David Bowley10:56 pm 30 Oct 23

Totally agree with you. There must be a better way than inhumane slaughter from the air.
The two starving foals (one dead already) is a heartbreaking consequence of this.

I agree with Patricia Gardiner. National Party types who have a vested interest in letting the wild horses wreck the Snowy because of business concerns have had far too much of a say for far too long.

patricia gardiner10:34 am 22 Aug 23

Historically, graziers used these feral horses on their properties. However when numbers grew and/or they became a problem, graziers shot them. This was common practice.
As culling was part of our high country heritage, it should be part of the current heritage management plan?
* fertility treatment is not a viable option(requires follow up treatments),
* no one wants the trapped horses,
* ground shooting is now ineffectual(too many horses) and impossible in inaccessible areas,
* and, feral horse numbers have escalated due to the efforts of Mr Barilaro and feral horse advocates,
What do those opposed to aerial culling suggest?
What should be protected, feral horses or a unique Australian ecosystem?

Totally agree with you.
A fellow with vested interests in allowing these introduced pests to run wild to keep his business viable has had far too much influence in this debate for far too long.

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