Are the numbers of wild horses in the Snowy Mountains really growing?

by Catherine Russell, over 3 years ago
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Colin de Pagter flys the Snowy Mountains and the Australian Alps everyday - for tourism, for bushfires, for search and rescue, for aerial survey work - his eyes have seen the landscape over the past ten years and he shares his story about the environment and the wild horses.


Heritage over 3 years ago
Of course Colin De Pagter has seen an increase in horse numbers! He has ONLY lived in the mountains and been flying there since after the 2003 fires which happened to be the year of the biggest and most intense fires in the Snowy Mountains history. Mr DePagter as an employed contractor to NPWS has also been brainwashed by parks for that 10 years and so it is in his interest to go with NPWS propaganda! This is certainly a conflict of interest. It is well recorded that the bushfires of 2003 killed at least 55% of the brumbies during the fires. So just because Mr DePagter has watched this natural increase of brumbies does not give him any credibility whatsoever in making assumptions of impacts. How many bushfires, floods and major dumps of snowfall has he witnessed over his few years to see the changes to the ecosystem. How many wet seasons and major rain events has he seen to note what mother nature's impact can be to those wetlands and streams that he is so concerned about. Why does he not also mention the fact that pigs and deer populations have absolutely exploded since the fires in areas that they have never existed before but he only blames the brumby for any impacts. Why are the horses a problem now when they have been there for over 150 years?? When will NPWS offer some truth to this debate? When will NPWS ask the local people with generations of intimate experience their views on this website? This is purely left wing propaganda at its best!
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Brumby voice over 3 years ago
Agree with Heritage. Mr De Pagter can't be independent or objective if he is a contractor to NPWS. The Snowy Brumby is a national icon and is part of our living heritage. After nearly 18o years the ecosystem has co-evolved with the Brumby.
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Catherine Russell over 3 years ago
Interested in how ecosystem has co-evolved with the wild horses. Could you expand on that point Heritage?
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peppercorn pete over 3 years ago
The simple fact that bio-diversity and eco-systems did not and have not collapsed since European presence inthe high country utilising the horse and the subsequent complimentary adaption to and integration into these eco-systems by the brumby illustrate the fallacy of the unelected Green agenda currently in control of a Government instument.
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walkin free over 3 years ago
What world are you living in, certainly not this one. Perhaps instead of making blasé statements you should actually get out and have a look. Take some old paintings of the country and see how much we have changed it. Read old books about the rivers and like. These aren't from a biased contractor. Try using the truth or evidence when making comments, biodiversity and our ecosystems have changed, that's irrefutable.
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Arnottavich over 3 years ago
For well researched impacts on the Kosciusko High Country caused by introduced hoofed animals, including the massive loss of soil and native vegetation species changes, read the old Soil Conservation Service NSW journals of the 1950-1960's. The Dept of Agriculture then supported the removal of grazing by hoofed animals from the Kosciusko region.
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nicole over 3 years ago
Thanks for pointing those out Arnottavich. We'll take a look.
Brumby voice over 3 years ago
Sorry my mistake, I should have said co-existed as 180 years is no where near long enough to co-evolve although elsewhere in the world that has been the case. The co-existence over the last 180 years has been harmonious with the Alps bio-diversity. After 180 years the Snowy Brumby has earnt the right of citizenship and should be recognised and protected and then managed in sustainable numbers. NO to aerial or ground shooting as a management tool.
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wordsandwilds over 3 years ago
If you agree with Heritage, then do you also agree that deer and pigs are a problem in the high country? Have they earned their high country citizenship?
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misspoptart1 over 3 years ago
If the parks were properly managed, they wouldn't be there. The ' domestic' animals gone feral, are out of control. The horses are our heritage, and need to be sustainably managed, humanely.
old fella mountain lover over 3 years ago
Just because a practice was used in the past, does it automatically mean that it now has heritage value? I can appreciate how horses were valued by the stockmen, but for the long-term survival of such a precious alpine area the correct decision was made to stop grazing in our alpine area, that is, no more stockmen, no more cattle and no more horses.
Catherine Russell over 3 years ago
We would be really interested in hearing more of your local experiences with the environment and the wild horses through this site or face to face. We will contact you directly. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this site.
misspoptart1 over 3 years ago
The feral pig population there, is doing far more to the waterways and general country, than the horses ever will. And not one mention of the feral dogs! If NPWS managed the park properly, as they should, the populations of all the animals, wouldn't be out of control, as they are now...The ferocity of the fires, would not have been as it was, if... proper land care management was in place... Really, it is just a joke. And to shoot animals from helicopters.....any animals, is just cruel and inhumane. More work and less talk, I think.
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Admin Commented Jenny.Bhatai over 3 years ago
Thanks for joining the discussion. For further information relating to park management and feral animal management please refer to the management plan for Kosciuszko National Park http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/KNPPOM.pdf and the regional pest management strategy for the Southern Ranges http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/pestsweeds/20120374srpms.pdf
Happy Jack over 3 years ago
I have been visiting, walking and camping in the Park for over 30 years and have noticed a significant increase in the brumby numbers in the recent years.Now don't get me wrong, I love to see the wild horses, they get the kids excited and seem a special treat. It used to be we would see them in the distance, on the tree-line and then they would be gone, small familly groups of a flighty Stallion (on look-out), a couple of mares and a foal or two if you were lucky. Now we see large groups of a dozen and more, and more groups, making the stalions quite aggressive to each other and us. No more fading away into the trees, they stand their ground now days.I talk specifically about the Gungarlin valley here. (and the long plain area to a lesser extent - less my experience - not less hourses, that is).Now for those that don't know the Gungarlin, it is an open frost plain river valley with the trees starting on the surrounding higher ground as it climbs away from the river. The immediate surrounds of the river are flat snow grass, puncuated by seasonal ponds and moss bogs in the lower areas. This is a riot of pink, yellow and purple, a carpet of wild flowers in season. and dispite the large number of horses still is... but what I am now seeing more and more, are major areas of disturbance and churned up mud where the horses cross the river or run through the softer areas. Something we never saw before. Large dung piles mark the favoured tracks (compacted into the ground) and camp areas are now often invaded at night making everyone feel very uneasy.I am not going to talk about dogs, pigs and other problems in the area as this discussion is about the horses.It seems to me that we have to reduce the wild horse numbers running in the park and we need to keep on reducing them if a breeding population is allowed to remain. We need to get them back to the small scattered groups of 10-15 years ago. On todays numbers in the Gungarlin valley this means reducing the current numbers by atleast 75%. (a large effort) and I am affraid well beyond any re-homimg approach. If these all went into farm horse padocks, we would quickly see impacts worse that in the park now and the cost of feed would quickly send the good samaritans broke. I am afraid that the process of reducing wild numbers in the park is going to necessate some actions that are repugnant to the more sentimental brumby fans, but if we choose to allow some wild horses to exist and run wild in our NP that that is what is required. Left to their own devices they will breed and distroy the habitat they run in. That is what animals do when left unchecked!
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nicole over 3 years ago
Thanks Happy Jack. It's particularly useful to learn about the impact you've witnessed in the Gungarlin Valley area. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.
Realist over 3 years ago
There's a green button and a red button. Save the pigmy posumm from extinction or keep brumbies in the bush? Which one do you choose? Humane treatment of these horses is of important. Thats not hard to agree on, so lets get into some detail. My personal views will undoubtedy challenge or offend many, however I value the native bush and its wildlife over maintaing the presence of feral horses. I do believe the numbers of feral horses, deer and feral pigs are increasing and I accept high populations of these large introduced animals result in impacts to the environment and its biodiversity such as tramplelling of alpine bogs, waterways and impacting the habitat of native wildlife species including small cudlly native mamals, and less cuddly frogs and reptiles that are threatened with future extinction. By opposing the removal of brumbies, people are complicit in that impact and extinction. Find some moral ground if you dare, but I am entitled to that view.Without large natural predators, human managment is esential to limit population growth of large introduced herbivors. I do not believe the preadtion by dingoes and wild dogs or the harsh winters or droughts will stop the continued increase in their populations. I do believe their populations and impacts will creshendo to a point of no-return for many of our native species. I therefore support the erraditaction of feral hoses from the majority of the park as a moral and ethical imperative.I also accept that "the brumby" is of cultural value and the suggestion from Colin in the video that a "Brumby Sanctuary" be created is a sensible idea. You can all poo poo his pecunary interest, but play the ball and not the man. Its a good idea. Its a win win idea. I would think this sanctuary area should ofcourse be defined in an area of lesser environmental significance in the park or adjacent state forest; and that the horses be contained to an area less than 10,000 hectares in size and that a maximum population of 200 brumbies be managed there. I recognise this implies an ongoing cost to contain and manage the horses in the sanctuary area in perpetuety. I suggest that it would be sustainable to manage such a sanctuary through limited fertility control and an ongoing trapping program to re-house the small numbers required to limit population growth in the santuary to a maximum of 200 horses. Thats still a lot of horses mind you.But there is something missing in the discussion here so far... I think the real debate should be about what is the most humane and practical methods to remove the horses outside the santuary area and on such a broad and comprehensive scale across the Australian Alps. People can debate how many horses are actually up there but if it is 5000 or if its 20,000 that need to be removed, than thats a hell of a lot either way. Lets be real about that. Fertility control at this scale is not technically possible. If you think it is - your dreaming . I really don't believe trapping or mustering in such a large mountainous area is going to be practically achievable for an erradication outcome either. Its not all wide-open plains up there! You could have a hundred stockmen working 6 months of every year mustering and trapping and I doubt you'd get the numbers down enough. You talk to stockmen who have ropped brumbies and they'll tell you that most of the bush after the fires is too thick to chase down those horses when they drop of the open tops into the bush. Mustering with the assistance of helichopters may improve effectiveness but will it be feasable? I do also think that these live capture techniques will also create a lot of stress on these wild animals, particularly the handling, loading and transport. The costs and effort would be massive. Tax money dosent grow on trees these days. Bless the souls that re-home them but if there are thousands of horses captured I doubt the demand is actually there to re-home all of them anyway.No doubt many that can't be re-homed end up at a knackery and I think the slaughtering process is very stressful to animals also. I would rather be shot frankly.Everyone looks back on Guy Fawkes as a dark day and I doubt there are any politicians out there who would dare to put pro-shooters in the air again because of fears of public perception. No 60 minutes story of horses going to the knackery though - no headlines there. But ask animal welfare experts including vets or even the RSPC about what removal techniques are the most human and practicle and these experts consistantly say the least stressful and effective option to achieve a sustainable reduction at this scale and across this terrain is a rapid and comprehensive program to knock down numbers by professional aerial shooting. Aerial shooting of pigs, goats and deer is already happening in NSW. The idea of "knocking-down" population size, means there will be less of a need for long term ongoing carnage every year into perpetuity. This means that ulimately less numbers of individual horse would need to be "removed" over the decades ahead and less individual horses stressed or killed in the long term. If only Parks NSW and the government had the guts to do that.I do belive aerial shooting is the most humane and effective method of removing the horses in the alps, but I do not belive that the community will find this method acceptable due to the broad lack of understanding about what constitutes a humane animal welfare outcome or what is practically achievable. Anyone who supports live capture over on-site lethal control is not thinking of the best animal welfare outcome for the horses. But odds on there is no governement now or in the future that has the intestinal fortitude to go to its electorates with an agenda of shooting horses. So settle down. Many people will re-fute the unrefutable evidence of environmental impacts. Others will refute the survey numbers. There is only one argument that will win this debate which is this: Any government that shoot hoses will loose the next state election. The brumby lovers will win the debate, because of spineless non-decision making politicians.They are not ever going to shoot the horses, and the horse population will continue to grow, and the alpine enviroment is headed to an inevitable collaps, so your kids can have brumby's in the bush, and your kids kids will have to go to a museum to see a stuffed pigmmy possum.The polititians apparenty believe this is more acceptable to the community at present. Killing horses is a tuff sell to an electorate -particullarly in an election year. So the only strategy for land mangers will be to maintain an ineffective a less humane trapping and mustering program into the future costing tax payer dollars. I hope NSW Parks have deep pockets because they will have to scale up the effort twenty fold to make a difference. The only way to get around that is to educate the community that aerial shooting is really the best outcome for the horses and the environmt. Thats the plan. It has to be, and its unlikely to work. My personal views will undoubtedy challange and offend many, however I value the natural bush and its wildlife over the horse. Too bad my position is futile and a losing batle to the propaganda of the brunmby lovers. Shame on you for chosing the red button!
benny over 3 years ago
All of what Colin on the video has said is just anecdotal evidence. His baseline is right after the fires when the population is low, so increased numbers might be right, but is not based on science over the medium or long term impact. Horses can be very heavy on land if they are contained into an area, however free ranging horses will tend to create their own single trails, so they do not chop up the land as much as some may think. Waterholes do recover quite quickly after a bit of rain. However if the horses are limited to a single water supply they can make a mess of the place. If you go down the path of restricting the brumbies to a sanctuary then they will make a worse mess of that place. But I am guessing that this would no longer be NPWS's problem so they would not care.My views here are anecdotal as well. A well balanced scientific study is needed to have a proper debate on this, and not one run by NPWS as they have a very high standard on the natural state of the park should be and will conduct the study to ensure the outcome they like. The fact the there have been horses there for about 180 years and the park is 6,900 sq kms needs to be taken into account. Even if there are 14,000 horses that would be 2 horses for every square km. The 14,000 number however looks like a ridiculous estimate. I am not sure how Dr Graeme Worboys came up with that number, but if he studied a number of horses in an area and then extrapolated that to the size of the park then it can be dismissed right away. The fact that this number has been put out there indicates that certain people want the debate to end in a certain way.
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Admin Commented Jenny.Bhatai over 3 years ago
Thank you for raising the need for scientific research Benny. NPWS is working with a number of experts in wildlife ecology, population estimates and animal welfare as well as taking in the experience and advice of a wide range of people, particularly from the local community. The 2014 aerial survey of wild horse populations in the Australian Alps national parks is currently being finalised and results will be released as soon as possible. This survey will inform the review of the Wild Horse Management Plan and is one of several indicators that will help experts and the public determine the impact of wild horses on Kosciuszko National Park. Thanks again for sharing your comments.
Deb over 3 years ago
Australian Brumbies are a national icon and part of our living cultural heritage. This country was settled successfully on the back of the horse, surely we can find a place for them in modern Australia and recognize the part they played in our history.No arial or ground shooting should be undertaken, horses are very sensitive and I am sure a more humane means can be found.We should seek to maintain sustainable Brumby numbers in existing Brumby populated areas, they have as much right to be here as white australians.
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Admin Commented Jenny.Bhatai over 3 years ago
Thanks so much for contributing to the discussion Deb. Your comments will be considered along with all others as a part of this consultation.
Jindygal over 3 years ago
Why would Mr de Pagter fib?? His pictures showed damaged waterways. What he said matched what he showed. For the record, I have never received a cent from NPWS. I am Australian to the core. I love the bush. I hate to see any foreign animal trash our bush and our natural heritage. I include deer, donkeys, cattle, camels, cane toads, foxes, goats and horses in what I call foreign animals that become feral and disrupt our native animals and plants.My experience in the Australian Alps supports the surveys that show an increase in horses. I have visited Native Dog Flat, Cowombat Flat, and Tin Mines Hut areas over some years. The damage from horses is definitely more evident, and the sightings more constant than it used be.In 1996, well before the 2003 fires, my diary notes say of the Tin Mines Hut area: Extensive damage at the creek edges by the horses coming to drink. We didn’t see any horses.Cowombat Flat: Plenty of evidence of brumbies but no sight of them. Dung over the walking and fire trails. Saw emu with chicks.In 2013: At Tin Mines Hut there were horses around the buildings when we arrived and they hovered around in the shelter of the trees while we were there. The stream edges were extensively damaged, to the extent that is was difficult to find somewhere to gather water. Thank goodness for a rock at one point that the horses couldn’t trample. At Cowombat Flat: All the way from the post marking the start of the Murray River, to Cowombat flat, there was widespread damage to the stream banks, sometimes 20 metres wide. Banks pushed in, islands created and eventually the creeks will be all wide and flat, warm swamps, not shaded waterways that fish and frogs and live and hide in. At Cowombat Flat, outside the exclusion zones there was only swamp and low grass where I remember a narrow stream.In nine days in 2013 in KNP we didn’t see any emus. Possibly because of the numbers of horses now formed into packs, and the time they have been running wild, their behaviour is concerning. In 2006 we were with a group at Native Dog Flat, just into Victoria, and in the night a horse knocked over a picnic table against a camper van. In 2013, a large survey party camped there and horses knocked out guy ropes from tents during the night.At Broken Dam, in early 2014, a horse knocked over a satellite dish belonging to a caravan parked in the camp ground. In late 2013, horses came stampeding within about 20 metres of our tents at 9.30pm, long after dark, crashing though the timber at a gallop. It was very scary as they weren’t frightened about obstructions, and sounded totally out of control. From the amount of timber crashing it sounded as though they weren’t on a defined track, all the more worrying as there is no knowing just where to pitch tents safely. Bird lovers would have been disturbed to hear the plovers screeching as the horses approached, presumably trying to protect their eggs on the ground. In 2013 we didn’t see any emus in over a week of walking.It isn't just numbers of horses, it's the unpredictable and dangerous behaviour that is concerning. When campers are at such risk, then it becomes a public liability issue. If nothing is done to remove horses from the Alps, sooner or later there will be a serious incident. Why should Australians and overseas tourists have to forego safe walking in the Australian Alps because of non-Australian animals?
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nicole over 3 years ago
Hi Jindygal, thanks so much for passing on your significant observations. Your point about the unpredictability of the brumbies is especially interesting, and definitely worth taking into consideration as part of this process.
Donna over 3 years ago
The definitive answer to this question is something I would sincerely love to know, as I'm certain is the case for a great many others concerned with brumby preservation. Even more so however, I would appreciate an explanation of the assertion by NPWS that brumbies are causing damage great enough to justify the consideration of aerial culling as a potential control method.Without a true & accurate population figure, any mention of lethal control methods is highly pre-emptive to say the least, as is any determination of their future in the park or lack thereof. Measuring their impact on the park is nigh on impossible to gauge if the equation is based on outdated or erroneous data that fails to address other variables which inevitably alter the result. At a recent public meeting a NPWS employee admitted there is no real way to differentiate between the damage caused by other animals such as wild pigs and that being attributed to the horses; this being the case, how is it then possible for NPWS to even ascertain the need for a reduction in numbers? NPWS as custodians of what is essentially public land must first ensure the information provided to the public in this process is accurate and based on fact rather than speculation or bias. The public cannot be expected to make an informed decision on either the management of the brumbies or their place in the park until such time as Parks can sufficiently support their claims of excessive numbers or negative impacts and in turn justify their present stance on continued removal and/or eradication.
pepper over 3 years ago
Agreed with comments already made. It would be a bit silly for someone that is contracted to the park to disagree with Parks opinion on the Brumbies.
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Catherine Russell over 3 years ago
Thanks Pepper. We are interested to hear from the wide range of opinions on the management of wild horses in the National Park. Mr de Pagter is one of many people who has come forward to date share his perspective on the wild horses.
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peppercorn pete over 3 years ago
A thoroughly efficiently constructed statement from somebody in a financial relationship with KNP,as could be expected his statements are a regurgitation of previous comments,if he was a pollie his conflict of interest would render his participation invalid,if KNP have a genuine commitment to community input and value it try objectiveness and honesty.