No Culling Victorian Alpine Brumbies in Management Plan
Culling will not be an option as part of Victoria’s new draft feral horse management plan that was released on the last working day before Christmas.
The decision not to include culling as a control method looks to be appeasing the vocal pro-brumby lobby groups.
Whilst the management plan is good news for the Alpine National Park the control methods will not be cost or number effective compared to a culling program. Going one-step further utilising recreational shooters to reduce numbers targeting sambar.
The government aims to remove all horses from the most sensitive alpine areas around Falls Creek by 2020. Elsewhere, the goal of removing 400 horses a year from the eastern Alps seems to miss the mark.
Trapping and removal will be a very expensive exercise that will be met with many limitations and obstacles for the remote populations in the Park.
Culling is the only real option
The Conversation identified that the New South Wales government has already tried trapping and removing horses in Kosciuszko National Park, and it hasn’t worked. Horses have continued to spread northward onto the main range, where environmentally sensitive alpine tarn and snow-patch communities occur.
Based on this rough calculation, the plan needs to eradicate many more horses. The draft plan claims that feral horses in the eastern Alps are “well established and are considered beyond eradication using currently available control tools”. Yet this claim ignores aerial culling, which is the cheapest, most effective, and most ethical way to reduce feral horse numbers.
Highly trained sharp-shooters and helicopter pilot teams can destroy more than 50 horses per day (based on previous culls in NSW, in which three teams of three people destroyed 606 horses over three days). Three teams could solve the feral horse problem in the Victorian alpine country in a month, and at lower cost.
It cost taxpayers more than A$1,000 for each horse trapped and removed from Kosciuszko National Park. Using the NSW cull as a guide to the resources required, and assuming A$300 per day per person, and A$10,000 per day per helicopter, it might have cost around A$150 per horse using aerial culling. That’s roughly 15% of the cost of trapping and removal.
Despite the risks to wildlife canvassed in the draft plan, and similar reports from NSW, there is no peer-reviewed research that defines the threats to native animals. A revised plan must include research to understand both the impacts of feral horses on native animal populations and their welfare.
The debate over culling horses typically ignores the unseen suffering that horses cause to native animals. Quantifying that suffering will be crucial for making informed decisions around feral horse management.
By avoiding the touchy subject of culling, the government seems to be missing the only real opportunity to control numbers in the high density and remote areas. The management plan will be open for comment until February