UPDATED: Victorian brumbies in court as traps are prepared in NSW

Edwina Mason26 May 2020
Supreme Court

The virtual hearing will take place in the Supreme Court in Victoria today. Photo: Supplied.

UPDATED, May 26 5 pm: The Victorian Supreme Court has adjourned for the day. Both parties have completed submissions and judgement is expected at 2.15 pm on Friday.

May 26: Today the fate of Victoria’s Alpine Brumbies will be determined in a virtual hearing as Omeo cattleman Phil Maguire faces off with the State of Victoria in the state’s Supreme Court.

For Phil, fresh from the Bogong High Plains after four days on horseback in temperatures well south of zero, the key objective is to have brumbies added to the Alpine Heritage List and managed sustainably and humanely.

For Parks Victoria, today’s decision could greenlight a planned ground shooting cull of the brumbies in the far east of Victoria between the high country town of Benambra and the Snowy River.

The shooting cull was announced on 8 May, the same day the Federal Court delivered its judgement in the case between Parks Victoria and the Australian Brumby Alliance (ABA), ruling in favour of Parks Victoria to allow horse control programs to continue.

These horse management plans include trapping and rehoming programs.

But Parks Victoria regional director for northern Victoria Daniel McLaughlin said the unprecedented scale and impact of the 2019-20 Victorian bushfires required mobilisation across government and the community “to protect what remained and give Victoria’s native plants, animals and ecosystems the best chance of survival”.

“Parks Victoria is authorised by the National Parks Act 1975 to control exotic fauna and to efficiently remove feral horses from high-conservation priority locations,” he added.

“Parks Victoria will also be moving to targeted ground shooting of free-ranging feral horses to control ongoing environmental damage occurring in high conservation value areas in the Victorian Alps.”

As snipers moved into position on the evening of Sunday, 17 May, a last-minute legal intervention by Phil Maguire led to a reprieve for the brumbies due to be shot the following morning.

Through an urgent application to the Victorian Supreme Court, Phil and his wife Louise helped convince the Victorian State Government to refrain from embarking on its shooting program until 1 June.

Depending upon the outcome of the case, he says, the shooting may never happen.

But he’s taking no chances with the historically significant Bogong Brumbies which are few enough in numbers to be able to be mustered and given safe refuge.

At the weekend he and a team of experienced high country riders travelled into the Alpine National Park in an effort to locate the 100-strong Bogong mob and muster them to safety on his nearby property.

He says that a mob of between 25 and 30 brumbies was found and turned towards his home, as reinforcement riders arrive in the high country this week to cast a wider net for the remaining horses.

Today’s court hearing is the only chance for the horses of the eastern Alps.

“The Eastern Alpine Brumbies are more numerous and can only be saved from shooting by court action,” Phil said.

Meanwhile, in NSW, June marks the start to planned trapping, aerial and ground musters of some 4000 brumbies on Cooleman Plain, parts of Boggy and Kiandra Plains and Nungar Plain areas in Kosciuszko National Park. The entire brumby population will be removed from Nungar Plain.

Salt-lick log

Logs are used to house salt licks and molasses blocks to attract brumbies to trapping locations. Picture: Supplied.

This forms part of the NSW Government’s statewide emergency recovery plan to protect and restore wildlife populations in NSW by launching the largest pest management program in its 53-year history, targeting deer, goats, pigs and carnivorous animals.

In the May 2020 Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Management Stakeholder Update, the NSW NPWS said the scientific advice was that wild horses would impede the post-fire recovery of vegetation and survival of native wildlife that depend on it, and numbers would have to be lowered to limit grazing and trampling pressures.

But there have been calls for a post-fire recount of brumby populations from advocates who say the numbers of horses cited are exaggerated.

Saltblocks and other molasses licks are being placed in cut logs near these locations to induce brumbies to the sites where self-closing yards will eventually be set up to passively trap the horses for rehoming.

Horses that cannot be rehomed will be euthanased or sent to the knackery, according the NPWS.

NSW Environment minister Matt Kean is presently awaiting advice from the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel (CAP) and Wild Horse Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) on a draft wild horse heritage management plan under the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018.

The minister had allowed an additional month for the completion of the new wild horse heritage management plan which was initially due to be completed by 1 May 2020. A draft plan was due to initially be completed by February 2020.

According to the NPWS website, the committees have met three times in November and December 2019, and again in February 2020 where they also met as a combined entity for the first time.

A joint meeting was slated for 3 April but there are no records of meetings since February 2020.

At that time the Wild Horse Scientific Advisory Panel presented its post-fire recovery advice and is yet to respond to a series of questions raised by the Community Advisory Panel.

Brumbies at Currango Plains in the Kosciuszko National Park, May 2018. Photo: Supplied by John Barilaro's office.

Brumbies at Currango Plains in the Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: Supplied by John Barilaro MP.

What's Your Opinion?

57 Responses to UPDATED: Victorian brumbies in court as traps are prepared in NSW

Tom D. Tom D. 9:17 am 08 Jul 20

We are a Canadian company that has developed a single-dose, long-acting birth control vaccine for horses. We’d like to get someone’s attention in Australia because we believe we have the most humane solution for sustaining a population. It’s not immediate, like culling or removal, but the population can be managed to a sustainable level over time by deciding how many horses to innoculate. All ingredients are natural, biodegradable, and harmless if ingested by a predator or scavenger. You can find us by using the search terms pZP single dose long term efficacy. Our challenge is that we will need to find a partner in Australia. Ideally, we’d source the active ingredient in Australia, which makes the regulatory approval much simpler. Currently, we are about to apply for registration with the EPA in the USA. We have also tested the same product with success in deer, seals, and a type of monkey called macaques– all demonstrating single-dose long-term effect and confirming safety. There are two field tests in Europe with horses right now. We would love to help with the feral horse and burro problems in Australia. If anyone knows of a good potential partner, let us know.

Clem Collier Clem Collier 9:58 am 26 Jun 20

Over population of everything……including humans is harmful to all concerned.

Sharon Munroe Sharon Munroe 8:09 am 11 Jun 20

I support Phil Maguire. Protecting brumbies, treating them humanely and protecting our heritage.

Jenny Geer Jenny Geer 6:26 am 11 Jun 20

NPWS methods of control/eradication are archaic and inhumane. There are other methods of control (such as fertility control) which are more humane if done in the correct manner taking into account the social structure of mobs. We are supposed to be an “enlightened “ society in a first world country yet the attitude is just to kill anything that we don’t like by the cheapest possible method. I too would like to see an accurate count of the brumbies and greater consultation with those groups that are intimately involved and know the brumbies regarding management strategies.

Toni Toni 1:06 pm 06 Jun 20

Nothing else should be done until an actual head count, not an estimation, is done.
I would also like to see verified photos and footage of those areas showing the damage that the Brumbies are being blamed for.
I believe there are many other factors that are being ignored, just easier to call them feral and say they’re the problem, get rid of them.
If there’s genuine evidence and nothing to hide there’s no reason not to do these things.

Maree Tadd Maree Tadd 4:25 pm 31 May 20

They survived the drought and the bushfires. They are part of our heritage and have a right to be there. Parks Victoria and the relevant NSW authorities seem to have a secret agenda to get rid of all the horses. What about the damage done by deer wild pigs etc. it’s just easier to cull the horses. They haven’t even an accurate number of how many horses are there. So – now – the slaughter begins .

Marian Smith Marian Smith 11:14 am 30 May 20

What is happening now to the NSW Brumby Bill under the cover of COVID? I have written to John Barilaro, the PM and Matt Kean Nobody in government replies to anything I write. The UK Actress Miriam Margolyes said recently “There is a brutality there and a greed in Australia, which I don’t like”. I can clearly see the brutality in what is happening but I can’t yet see the greed.

Sonia Davidson Sonia Davidson 5:43 pm 29 May 20

Save and re-home if necessary.
Create a network of local “horse people“ that would be willing to take one or more horses when trapped.

Yvonne Lay Yvonne Lay 5:00 pm 29 May 20

We should save all these horses. They are beautiful and part of our History and Heritage. Good on Mr. Maguire a true Australian. If I owned land you would be welcome to it for these beautiful creatures.

Izzy Luescher Izzy Luescher 10:30 am 29 May 20

I’m supportive of managing our free horse populations by methods that ensure the protection of Australia’s Brumbies lives. Not shooting, culling, eliminating. Phil Maguire is courageously putting his every breath into this debate, and will not give up being associated with their defence. And he is not alone, we are behind him. Anyone who has or has had contact with horses feel the same fire in their hearts. These are intelligent, magestic creatures, whose bond and history of working on properties,fighting on foreign shores, ever faithfull must not be forgotten. There are many supportive people willing to rehome, re-locate, train, protect and care for these horses. Legislation must permit us to do that. Hoping for a just and humane decision today in Victoria’s court. The world is also watching….

Colleen Colleen 11:23 pm 27 May 20

The Brumby’s need to be protected and listed as Heritage. They still play an important part of our history and traditions that are being forgotten in this modern tech world we live in.
Stop the Cull of Victoria’s Brumbys

Sue Hopgood Sue Hopgood 10:01 pm 27 May 20

The culling methods used are disgraceful and an embarrassment to Australia. They are violent, traumatizing and excessively cruel. Un Australian at the very least and every Australian should be horrified, and every Tax Paper should vote on this issue as Australia still belings to us all.

Gloria Gloria 5:08 pm 27 May 20

our brumbies aren’t feral
feral horses are not our brumbies
what is the real reason for riding the high country of the brumbies
there were so many killed in the fires as were hundreds of other animals and insects living within the area that these wonderful horses have co lived with all. this is not just Phil and his family but a wide range of people who are very passionate about these animals. pigs and deer are feral and have been major destructive animals. deer ringbark trees, pigs dig up the ground. the horse served for Australia and died for Australia. they need to be allowed to live free

Janene Branc Janene Branc 2:03 pm 27 May 20

The Snowy Brumby herd’s have been decimated by the drought and fires. Many mobs have not been sighted for months. I believe the should be Heritage listed and protected.

J harvraves J harvraves 10:52 am 27 May 20

The horses are not the only problem humans are the biggest threat and other deal species .If a brumby numbers are to high trap and try rehome as many as possible culling entire herds is not the answer .They have been there for 200 hundreds years they deserve to be protected.

Laura Lyubomirsky Laura Lyubomirsky 10:11 am 27 May 20

The local community needs to be more involved in these decisions. There hasn’t been any real media crisis and most conversation is happening on social media. It seems that there is a hidden afenda ie., a development like “Aspen” that John Barilano is touting. It is disturbing to think that public servants are taking matters into there own hands without consulting the people that pay for their jobs

Philomena Price Philomena Price 10:03 am 27 May 20

The shooting of these Brumbies is cruel and will cause them so much stress and suffering they should have been managed properly but Parks Victoria who don’t seem to be able to manage anything I am against animal cruelty and do not want them captured and sent to knackeries either as they are also very cruel We need to manage the Brumbies with fertility control and rehoming which has been successful in other countries
I have seen the results of these cruel culls and it’s devastating and horrendously cruel most horses have three are more bullet wounds and die slowly and to leave their bodies in the Parks to encourage wild dogs, cats and pigs is an absolute disgrace

    Frank and Jenny Flissinger Frank and Jenny Flissinger 10:10 pm 27 May 20

    Numbers have to be wrong I read where mares have 2 foals a year gestation is 11 months.
    If she is allowed by the alpha mare she could have a foal the following year.
    The fires must of killed off a lot. Old and young even with a wise stallion they could not outrun the fires. Jenny and Frank.

Gloria Barlow Gloria Barlow 9:40 am 27 May 20

The horses are Not the problem.The Deer and Pigs are..I am 74 and have had many years enjoying the mountains ..
The brumbies are part of our heritage..The numbers are incorrect.They must be recounted.So many were lost in the bushfires..

Gabrielle Gabrielle 9:34 am 27 May 20

This is a national disgrace our brumbies are our heritage their ancestors fought and carried us in war.Their walking trails stopped bush fires jumping to other areas and without them grazing the fuel on the ground would be so much more dangerous.If there is important plant species we are clever enough to propagate them for sale like the wollemi pine tree is now sold to the public.How many areas have we destroyed for our cities and housing that had native species growing? To Shoot a brumby is cruel and will show that Australias govt is pathetic for allowing such barbaric behavior. The world and all horse lovers are watching .The feral cats eat all our native species and the feral pigs and deer ruin the land not the horses ,get rid of the cats dogs,pigs and deer and geld the colts and rehome those horses that are suitable dont just shoot them all as this is ignorant .Dan Andrews you wont get any votes this way .

Terry Mitchell Terry Mitchell 9:03 am 27 May 20

Leave the Brumbies be! More effort needs to foces on the feral pigs that destroy everything in their path and have very high reproduction rates. Something isn’t right here and I think the Brumbies are just an easier target and not as dangerous to track as feral pigs. There’s rumors of the Alpine region being turned into an Australian Aspen style ski resort and that contracts have been signed and money exchanging hands. So much for the fragile environment and threatened indigenous species. Wouldn’t put it past the government to sell out like that and it’s exceedingly dishonest and deceitful to the Australian people. Don’t blame the Brumbies as they are the least destructive “invasive” species. I think all the “environmental, scientific PROOF” is doctored by paid off so called scientists as I have yet to see terrain showing definitive signs of damage caused by the Brumbies. Leave them be!