Australia is set to slaughter 10,000 wild horses by shooting them from a helicopter. Barbaric? Yes. But according to several Aussie scientists, it’s still not enough to stop this “invasive species” from trampling native habitats home to endangered species as the stocky galaxias fish, alpine tree frog, and broad-toothed rat.
The horses, which are akin to the American mustangs, were brought Down Under by early settlers and have evolved into the feral brumby horse, made famous in the movies, The Man From Snowy River, and The Silver Brumby (based on the bestselling children’s book series). In the United States, mustangs are somewhat protected in that the Bureau of Land Management cannot cull or kill the animals. But the mustang’s fate remains in the balance as we’ve covered extensively in Horse Canada.
According to an article in Live Science there are over 25,000 brumbies that roam mainly across three territories – New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, and Australian Capital Territory. This area is known as the alpine region, and accounts for just 1% of the whole continent, yet some species are found only within its borders. The plan to “manage” or kill the horses is outlined here with a goal of reducing the herd down to 3,000 – a number that some scientists say is still too high. A group of 69 scientists wrote an open letter condemning the government’s plan and seeking to condemn more brumbies to a violent death. The letter calls for all wild horses to be removed specifically from NSW’s Kosciuszko National Park. They write, “Without an effective management plan, feral horse numbers have more than doubled since 2014 to an estimated 14,380 in 2020. With an 18% annual growth rate numbers could approach 20,000 by 2022.”
The letter further states, “To reduce numbers, use all available methods that are effective and meet animal welfare standards.”
The method is to hire sharp-shooters to kill the horses from a helicopter. Helicopters are used to round up mustangs in America, and to cull wolf populations in Alaska, and are considered cruel and inhumane.
Rehoming this many horses in Australia is expensive and perhaps impossible. And given how the mustang adoption program has yielded tragic results that may not be the solution, either. Interestingly, there is no mention in the government document of any competition for grazing land between brumbies and ranch cattle, as is the constant debate in America between ranchers and mustang advocates.
It seems a terrible end for thousands of wild horses who were brought to Australia by humans for exploitation as a means of transport and ranch work, and who have long passed their “usefulness,” being made disposable by the very humans who created the situation.
The open letter mentions a survey of Australians, where 71% agreed it’s acceptable to cull animals to protect endangered species. One wonders what percentage understand that cull means kill, and that the brumby, a majestic emblem of the nation’s history and culture, is included in that list.
For more information on groups that are trying to advocate for these feral horses, check out Save the Brumbies and this petition at Change.cor.