Environment

The irony of the brumby and Snowy 2.0 sharing the same backyard

Edwina Mason14 December 2020
Peter Cochran on horseback looking over Kosciuszko National Park.

Peter Cochran looking over Kosciuszko National Park, where he says brumby numbers are diminishing in cruel fashion. Photo: Supplied.

As Peter Cochran slowly picks his way through the Snowy Mountains bush he will, from time to time, come across the carcass of a foal, mauled by dogs.

He says this is one tragic outcome of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) brumby trapping program in Kosciuszko National Park, which continues into high summer unabated, largely unpoliced and in defiance of stipulated welfare guidelines.

It’s just a horse whisker beyond foaling season with many of the young still unsteady and uncertain on their feet as they cling to their mothers for safety.

Peter has seen plenty of young ‘uns this year as he’s led teams of horses and riders through the charred wilderness. His business of running commercial horse treks through Kosciuszko National Park means he is up there five days a week, and he sees and hears a heck of a lot about what goes on.

He knows the mountains, the bush and the horses. He served in the army, Vietnam, was a state MP and, given his pedigree, all roads led to his passionate advocacy for the retention of wild horses in national parks.

Two wild brumbies in Kosciuszko National Park.

Trapping of brumbies in Kosciuszko National Park continues through the peak foaling season despite animal welfare guidelines. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s beautiful up there right now, absolutely glorious, the horses are fat, the people are fat,” says Peter, laughing. “It’s just a different place altogether compared to last year.”

But up in the mountains – where the worries of the modern world slip into the swamps – on vast plains and under steep mountains there might be plenty of foals, but far fewer horses.

“The population of brumbies is down to hell,” says Peter. “I’ve got people riding with me now, who haven’t been up here for a couple of years, noticing the number of brumbies missing and I’m not sure if that’s the case because of fire or what.”

“Or what” is the NSW Government’s campaign to reduce brumby numbers in the Australian alpine region in a bid to protect an ecosystem it says is under threat.

Tri-state surveys conducted under government dominion have shown wild horse numbers across the Australian Alps National Parks – in NSW, ACT and Victoria – increased from around 9000 in 2014 to 25,000 in 2019.

Peter is so sick of hearing that number he just sighs.

“It baffles me that they get away with it, but they do,” he says. “The numbers they claim were never there, yet this dispute over numbers keeps going on with a methodology being used by National Parks and Wildlife that’s just nonsense. The locals know just by being up there all the time. We miss individual horses you get to know.”

Last week, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean confirmed the long-awaited post-bushfire recount of Kosciuszko National Park was complete, with data analysis underway.

Both offices said internationally recognised best-practice techniques were used to produce an estimate of the population, but these results won’t be released until they’re peer-reviewed by independent experts.

But it was confirmed around 280 horses have been trapped and removed since trapping started in July 2020, with 94 per cent rehomed.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website confirms 14 horses have been sent to the knackery, with one trap-related death.

Wild horse control measures will continue to be implemented in three priority areas in Kosciuszko National Park: Cooleman, Kiandra and Nungar Plain.

This ongoing program beyond the accepted February to May and June to September periods has been condemned by many people with reports of foals separated from their mothers; horses, some being heavily pregnant mares, trapped in yards without water or shade during hot weather periods; allegations of urea, which is poisonous to horses, being used in salt lures; and ongoing questionable transportation practices.

“So far as trapping them at this time of year when there’s foals about and the foals are being run off their mothers – and we see them – we see the foals orphaned out in the bush so the dogs kill them,” says Peter.

The Invasive Species Council is offering a $1000 honorarium* to people willing to coordinate volunteers to get the 20,000 signatures required for a petition calling on the NSW Legislative Assembly to address feral horse impacts in the park before the 13 January expiration date.

Snowy 2.0 construction site.

“We’ve got Snowy 2.0 ripping out the side of the country out there – massive destruction of the place – yet nobody is saying a damn word about it,” says Peter Cochran. Photo: Snowy Hydro.

The Federal Government has announced $8 million will be directed to Australia’s fragile alpine ecosystems to support the long-term recovery and mitigate the impact of hard-hooved animals following the devastating Black Summer bushfires.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said recovery efforts would focus on rehabilitating the habitat of threatened species such as the northern and southern corroboree frog through feral animal control, weed control and threatened species management.

Peter says management of brumbies shouldn’t be about numbers, but rather should be about impact. Which leaves him a little goggle-eyed because areas untouched by fire were most heavily populated by brumbies.

“The greatest impact of horses is on Currango Plain around Tantangara Dam, and they’re not trapping there,” he said. “It’s extraordinary, but they’re doing it in remote areas where there are very few brumbies, which why they’re not catching any.

“Yet we’ve got Snowy 2.0 ripping out the side of the country out there – massive destruction of the place – and nobody’s saying a damn word about it.

“I happen to be supportive of the concept of the Snowy Hydro system, but for the duplicity in argument, the hypocrisy of the bloody thing is just beyond belief.”

*An earlier version of this story said “the Invasive Species Council is offering $1000 per week, plus a $1000 honorarium”. The council is only paying the honorarium. Region Media apologises for the error.

What's Your Opinion?

36 Responses to The irony of the brumby and Snowy 2.0 sharing the same backyard

Filter
Order
Eric Lesleighter Eric Lesleighter 12:47 pm 03 Oct 21

Peter
I was stunned, appalled, flabbergasted to hear what I relate – This morning while listening to the Garden show on 2GB, an ad came on which said there were 10,000 brumbies devastating our wonderful Kosciusko Park. The right after the ad, the program presenter Graeme Ross says something like this” I do not comment much on environmental issues, but the Kosciusko is being overrun by 30,000 brumbies”. Where do these people get these blatantly gross lies about the brumby population?

Janette Brennan Janette Brennan 10:38 am 25 Aug 21

CRUELTY REIGNS SUPREME!! Save the Brumbies and let them live in peace.
Australia is outstanding in medical research by world standards. Surely, instead of murdering vulnerable Brumbies there has to be a method in the form of, say, ‘Crop Dusting’ to enable the spread of specific material across the herd which could provide timed contraception for a period of, say 12-18 months, until a humane system is discovered and put in place to protect these beautiful creatures. How difficult could this be?
There is no excuse for this current cruel and unforgivable destruction of our Brumbies! Do something you experts – BECAUSE YOU CAN !!

Maureen Hiscock Maureen Hiscock 11:18 pm 14 Aug 21

Stop the trapping please. Look at the true facts of the number of brumbies.
Stop the lies about damage blamed on the brumbies when the pigs, dogs rabbits do more damage. There is so much land for so few brumbies. Don’t destroy these iconic horses .

Helen Goodwin Helen Goodwin 10:56 pm 14 Aug 21

My heart is shattering.
Our brumbies should be left alone.
Why aren’t they reading all the research that has been done.
Why aren’t they listening to all the locals, particularly the mountain men, who have lived there all their lives?
Generation, after generation.
Why haven’t the yards got adequate shade and water?
Why are they trapping the mares and foals,at their most vulnerable?
Please, please leave them in peace, to live free.
They are beautiful animals.
Thank you in anticipation.
Yours faithfully, Helen

Denise Kerr Denise Kerr 9:44 pm 14 Aug 21

They already have a Snowy Hydro Scheme which has been around for years, the thing is the Snowy River is dry for most of the year, especially during drought years. So by building a Snowy 0-2.,does the Government feel that another Hydro scheme will make any bloody difference, I very much doubt it. Mean while the powers that be, are are ripping up the Great Dividing Range, killing the environment, just so city people can have fun in the Snow at the six star resort. Australia is the laughing stock for the rest of the world, in regards to killing off it’s Native Animals. Mother Nature will be most displeased about the way the Government has treated her animals, obviously they haven’t heard of Karma, Mother Nature will get her own back with a vengeance. We have people who live by the University rules, have no idea about Country, resources, native animals as well as the environment.

    Maureen Ckifford Maureen Ckifford 11:27 pm 14 Aug 21

    Mother Nature is already getting her revenge on the world and our abysmal treatment of her and the animals – it is called Covid 19 …. Karma indeed

Michelle Francis Michelle Francis 6:50 am 13 Apr 21

You can thank Richard Swain when come to horses. Smoke screen for snowy hydro 2.

Glen Glen 9:03 am 18 Feb 21

Don’t you think it’s very hypocritical of the government to want to remove brumbies from National Parks as they are an introduced species, but breed and restock waterways with Trout? Trout are not native! They are responsible for decimating native species but because so much money is made from them, licences, fishing tackle, accommodation etc,etc, it’s OK to add them to the ecosystem! Time to value add to the brumbies! Then the government will want to protect them if they see financial benefits!

Simonne Simonne 6:47 pm 02 Feb 21

Has Susan Ley read this??!! She damn well should – listen to the locals!

Christine Daley Christine Daley 11:13 am 15 Jan 21

The horses are not damaging the National Parks compared to many other factors like Pigs Deer Rabbits Ski resorts Snowy Hydro lack of management and rubbish left by people and 4 wheel drives and large machinery and Humans who are also invasive species and cause more harm to our country than any horses. The Wild horses are a major part of our Heritage and Culture. They are part of the ecosystem and help with the regeneration of plants and grasses. Our Brumbies are not feral. The Brumbies should be managed by people familiar with the horses, not National Parks as they seem to have no idea. NPWS has inhumanely treated these horses by the constant trapping when Mares and foals are separated and left to die Pregnant Mares sent away in trucks. No shade and water in the trap sites also using a salt that can be poisonous to horses. The lack of Maintenance when a trap site is abanded by not cleaning the area of the salt is very bad for the environment. The number of horses in the park has constantly been over-exaggerated.
At this time in Jan 2021, the number of horses around the park is at a minimum level considering the amount of land available to everyone to use.
Wild horses are flight animals so will run from danger, if left alone they cause no harm to people they do not like people.

Kim Nolan Kim Nolan 8:33 am 15 Jan 21

Listen to Peter Cochrane!!

Craig Downer Craig Downer 9:51 am 19 Dec 20

Yes, I agree seems very hypocritical to focus solely on the magnificent brumbies while ignoring major disrupters of the ecosystem like the huge Snowy mine. And also it seems so blind to ignore the many positive benefits of the brumbies such as in reducing dry flammable litter that can prevent catastrophic wildfires. Seems the smug brumby enemies have their target— but their tunnel-vision is appalling!

Ann Smith Ann Smith 5:28 pm 15 Dec 20

Did Peter Cochran provide the text for this article? Of course he’s sick of hearing how many feral horses there are in the Kosci. Others are too, but that’s because they are concerned the numbers have been allowed to proliferate under the influence of the National Party.
People who care about the land want the numbers substantially reduced so their impact can be reduced. Then, provided the government will find the money, some rehabilitation can commence.
KNP is not Peter Cochran’s property, and he has never done the sort of detailed research that so many scientists have done on the ecology of KNP. He can disclaim the official estimates of numbers all he likes, but they stand the test of peer reviewing. The papers detailing the methodology are freely available if anyone wants to find fault. Journalists who give credence to unsubstantiated claims over hard research should not be in the business.
Not everyone’s happy about the impact of Snowy2, but that doesn’t justify letting hoofed pest species run unchecked.

Bron Dee Bron Dee 10:49 am 15 Dec 20

Where’s the evidence of his claims?

And what about all the little native species being threatened thanks to the huge damage these large beasts cause—like the Northern Corroboree Frog, Alpine Water Skink, Mountain Pygmy Possum, Stocky Galaxias, Alpine She Oak Skink and the Guthega Skink, to name just a few…

What Cochran says about the distribution of the brumbies is rubbish. I’ve walked in some very remote areas of the Australian Alps and the brumbies are there in large numbers. I’ve seen the evidence of massive destruction in minor waterways and grassland, and been bailed up by a mob. A scary situation when you’re 5 days walk from civilisation.

It’s a national park! It was established as such to protect the unique ecosystem for future generations. Honestly, people need to stop listening to this man with massive vested interests in keeping brumbies in the park.

Listen to the scientists – the evidence is irrefutable. The brumbies are destroying our wilderness areas and threatening native flora and fauna.

If he loves the brumbies so much, why not set up a ‘reserve’ on private grazing land and he can profit from the visitors that way.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emr.12357

    Christine Parkes Christine Parkes 5:22 pm 15 Jan 21

    The problem is humans the majority of the endangered animals or plants are not in the areas of the park that the horses are in and the mountain Pygmy possums more in the ski field areas and when it comes to protecting them they just let more people in also all the the human excreter that along with toilet paper would have a large impact snowy hydro 2.0 is doing explorative drilling after the environmental studies have supposed to be done even after the boring machine was taken up but it is not about the environment then and when you find people in wilderness areas that are not to be camped even .Tantangara dam drained to a very low level since the good rain in October 2020 and now nearly dry because it will have to be kept low so all them mud flats that lots of native animals and horses alike can get stuck in.Seeing that is COOMA’s and then Canberra’s water supply twice there is a dam that now is set for at least 5years of being kept low all it comes down is how much money they are going to make really nothing about the wildlife or the horses it is human greed if there are no larger animals to eat the grasses down and the scrub is allowed to grow unchecked then there will be a bigger fire than 2020 so I hope that they will find a middle ground

Kim Brookes Kim Brookes 10:15 pm 14 Dec 20

The locals know what is going on and poor treatment of these horses is not responsible management by any means.

Open and transparent policy is needed sorely, there is no way they have rehomed 94% when poisoned salt bait is in the equation and heavily pregnant mares and foals are being run to exhaustion.
This is not the good people in this country treat horses.

JS JS 10:02 pm 14 Dec 20

This is an example of good journalism, finally listening to voices of our local people who live and breathe the value brumbies add to the ecosystem. Balanced report of the true impact of human destruction eg Snowy Hydro and the inaccurate lies of brumby numbers by so called peer reviewed science by peers who live in Scotland of all places!?! So Sherlock, if it wasn’t for the brumbies the 2003 and 2019/20 fires would have been even worse and wiped out Canberra and they are a key part of our nature’s future.

Christopher Tame Christopher Tame 6:35 pm 14 Dec 20

What a load of rubbish. Imagine choosing feral livestock over natural heritage on land set aside for natural heritage.

Jessica Mathers Jessica Mathers 3:21 pm 14 Dec 20

If Cochran is genuinely concerned about cruelty to horses, feral or otherwise, there are a few different things that he could be doing. He could be campaigning against the racing industry. He could be actively lobbying for the immediate banning of jumps racing Australia wide. And, in addition to many other actions he could take, he could be working to remove all feral horses from national parks, so that future generations aren’t born to suffer starvation and predators like the feral dogs referenced here.

He isn’t, though. He likes seeing horses because they make him feel nice. Which really is a rather selfish attitude.

Linda B Groom Linda B Groom 3:04 pm 14 Dec 20

I think About Regional might want to check the facts about the so-called ‘$1000 a week payment’. A thorough journalist would not quote the Invasive Species Council as offering that without checking with the ISC first. How many other facts are wrong in this article?

Frank STARCEVICH Frank STARCEVICH 2:17 pm 14 Dec 20

Leave the horses alone.

Craig Me Craig Me 1:03 pm 14 Dec 20

This is a biased emotional statememt with no proof of anything. You cant question the numbers, thats a scientific best practice count. Horses are presumable removed from sensitive areas first, complaining about where they are trapping without any idea of whats going on is not helpful. Address the management plan directly with good data, not from your limited obsevations. You are supose to be some sort of professional – ex member, your personal observation with limited information is disapointing.

Last count was over 25000, sounds a bit high dont you think, given its a National Park.

If you have poor handling concerns, discuss with parks, not on the web. Document with pictures, bring in approprite stakeholder group, influence the process; not decicive emotions statements. Comparing Snowy devopment with horse numbers is rediculice. The whole prupose of the Park in 1962 was it? was to enable protection of the hydro from soil erosion. Protection from cattle and horses, hello. Leaving a remnant cultural horse presence in the North, away from the hydro, away from the threatenned habitat and species, away from the ‘wilderness classifications’ sounds reasonable. There is room for all user groups up there. And god knows we need a bit of conservation action, but we are all still waiting for that to happen! When you have more feral animals than natives in the park, the whole experiment failed in the first place.

There is a good argument for user group involvement in management of horse numbers, as well as other land mangement practices. The practice works well off-reserve. Catchment committee/ landcare style groups could be involved. But there would need to be serious oversight of any program servicing horse management…

Top