Do you agree or disagree that introduced species compete with native animals for food and shelter?

by Catherine Russell, over 3 years ago
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National Parks Ranger Rob Gibbs steps us through the impacts of wild horses on the habitat of the broad-toothed rat. What do you think about the impact of wild horses? 

ProtectParks over 3 years ago
Feral animals do compete with native populations for food, shelter and water. In times of drought thousands of horses, attracted to what limited moisture and feed are available, will wreak tremendous damage on the ecosystem and reduce the ability of that system to sustain the native animals.
chantelle over 3 years ago
For millions of years introduced species have impacted on the environment and other animal species, this is seen through evolution. Darwin's evolution theory, which he called the natural selection shows us that evolution, the natural process had and continues to express the dominance of one species over another, its specie on specie, survival of the fittest. As an old species dies out a new one is just born. Creation by natural laws. The so called impacts brumbies, an endangered species, are having on the environment and dominance they hold over other species is a part of the animal kingdom, just as rats, brought by Captain Cook had on bird and plant species. It is apart of the wild, and nature, we cannot stop a species from acting as they are, this process has been happening for longer then humans have been record to of lived and has and continues to occur in human life. All life forms descended over a period of time from ancestors as Darwin had noted. Humans too have impacted and continue to impact on the land, if this is the case does this too mean that we need to be managed better? Chantelle, 16
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peter_mcc over 3 years ago
I don't think evolution is relevant - sure, dominant species survive over time in an environment but it is a very slow process and happens within a closed ecosystem. What we are seeing here is the destruction of unique ecosystems by introduced pests. Be they pigs, deer, root-rot fungus or horses - they are not really "evolution" - more "revolution".
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chantelle over 3 years ago
However depending on what you believe in these "introduced" species may not be as they seem, i for one believe the continents were all connected to form the one big super continent Gondwana. If this is the case all animals were free to roam the land, however it was when Gondwana began to break apart and form what we know as the continents today, the animals became isolated on different continental pieces and from here they evolved, in other words i do not believe they are introduced, in my opinion they all started in the same place and became separate before man were known. whilst your opinion may be that these species are destructive to the ecosystem, this is a natural process. But culling and slaughtering is not the answer, how can we condemn one species for being destructive to the environment in order to survive, when all we as humans have done is play a destructive role in our ecosystem and environment? the only difference is we have the consciousness to know the implications of our actions which we ignorantly ignore.
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peter_mcc over 3 years ago
It may well be that Gondwana existed and the animals roamed free - however I do not believe there is any evidence that horses were a part of the Australian landscape before the arrival of Europeans (at least they were not here for a very very long time).We regularly condem "one species for being destructive". Examples include mice, rats, pigs, deer, rabbits, goats, cane toads, etc. As I understand your logic we should not be trying to control any of their numbers. We do and almost nobody has a problem with it. As for human impacts on KNP - NPWS is doing their best to limit them.I don't think that introduced pests are a part of a "natural process". That's why they are so destructive - because the slow processes of evolution get side stepped by an introduced pest and the environment cannot cope. If they had been there for thousands of years, like the other native animals, then I'm sure the environment would have adapted and the impact would be less - it would have to be, otherwise with no natural predators the horse numbers would be huge by now and the damage immense.
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chantelle over 3 years ago
I can see your view and i understand what you mean, however i will never agree to any form of culling or killing of any kind whether it be a native specie or an "introduced", i do not believe we were given the right to kill animals, this is just my personal view and is probably the reason why i am also vegetarian, but whether they are a pest or not there are other management strategies, culling should not be an option. We do not believe in execution in Australia by any means for any reason so i strongly believe it is not in our right to be murdering animals of any kind, especially those of the wild.
Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
The issue of competing for food is not whether horse were a part of the Australian Landscape - but that having been there over 200 years, and having become indigenised, they need to be considered equally with other species, especially those who have, over time, come to depend on the horses presence and ability to increase the Alpine bio-diversity they now depend on. We need studies to identify the level wild horse presence has become an integral part of the Alpine bio-diversity. For example, Newhaven Station (NT) removed all wild horses, only to find the celebrated 'Night Parrot' ceased to visit the area because their presence was dependent on the presence of wild horses. They tried releasing domestic horses to replace the wild horses, but were unsuccessful as all domestic reintroductions died – not a great result. Regards, Bio-Brumby
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peter_mcc over 3 years ago
I went looking for reports about Newhaven Station and the effects on the Night Parrot - I couldn't find anything apart from some references to it on Brumby supporter websites. Do you have any independent reports to collaborate the story? Looking at the publicly available information on the Night Parrot I'm not sure things are as simple as you say - there have been very few sightings of it since the 1880's (7 in total from 1870's to 2006 according to a Brisbane Times article). There was one sighting of the birds at Newhaven in 1996 - well before the horses were removed - but nothing anywhere nearby since.The articles I can find don't list Newhaven Station as a prime location for the bird. The property was purchased by Birdlife Australia in, I believe, about 2002 when the stock & horses were removed. It has since been managed by Australian Wildlife Conservancy. I can't imagine either group reintroducing horses. Without some further evidence I am not sure I can believe this story. If horse supporters are going to doubt the evidence that has been produced to document the damage from the horses then I think it is only fair that examples like this are given similar scrutiny.
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Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
Hi Peter_mcc, Newhaven station is unlikely to admit to losing the Night Parrot due to removing horses. Best evidence would be to compare sightings post horse removal with those pre horse removal. Agree my comments may not convince you, but the main issue here is that proper research is essential to see what biodiversity would disappear if horses were removed from any particular location is surely a sensible thing to do before changing an ecology that, in KNP has gone on for over 200 years. Regards, Bio-Brumby
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peter_mcc over 3 years ago
Hi Bio-Brumby. Do a search on the Night Parrot - Wikipedia, bird watcher sites, etc - there have been very very very few sightings of it ever. We're talking 7 sightings in total across all of Australia from 1880 - 2006, one of which was at Newhaven Station in 1996. So I guess there is one sighting before the horses removed and none after. But given there were 7 sightings in 125 years in all of Australia I don't think there is any conclusion that can be drawn from it.Sorry to "pick" on it - but the forums here have lots of comments saying that the NPWS research isn't of high quality so I don't think it is fair to let an example like the Night Parrot to slip through uncritiqued.
Themba over 3 years ago
I would agree that some introduced species such as rabbits do compete with native animals. In the case of horses, being predominately a grass eating animal I would not agree as they easily coexist with Kangaroos and other grass eaters without detriment. Their manure would also provide a food source for birds by attracting insects and provide enrichment to the soil thus encouraging plant growth.I would be interested to hear if there has ever been a scientific study conducted on the benefits of grass eating animals such as horses on the benefits they provide to the environment. I know there have been overseas studies but I have not seen any conducted in Australia. It would be interesting to know for example, what effects there are on the environment if grass eating animals such as horses are excluded. I have seen photos of exclusion zones created by Parks staff that exclude large animals and notice the grass and other vegetation is very long in those areas. What detrimental effects are there in excluding animals such as horses?? The obvious comes to mind that all the long grass and vegetation once dry will be highly flammable...
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Perplexed over 3 years ago
Themba, I think you will find that most of the research showing beneficial outcomes from the re-introduction ( a key word that - reintroduction) of large grazing animals is in overseas areas where the present (short geological time scale) ecosystems evolved in the presence of native indigenous hard hoofed grazers to those areas such as North America (bison), Eurasia (true native horse), Europe ( musk ox, deer, goats) etc. This is not the case with the Australian continent, although there are some interesting theories on Australian mega fauna, but not a great deal of solid research to support these theories and claims. I haven't seen too many Diprotodon fossils in my travels around the snowy mountains! Incidentally the Diprotodon became extinct over 46,000 years ago, the ecosystems of the snowy mountains whilst ancient in their underlying soil mantle origin have really only evolved in their current forms since the last ice age peak of 20,000 years ago. As for horses and kangaroos coexisting, there has been some recent research to prove otherwise.Lenehan, J. (2010). Ecological impacts of feral horses in grassy woodland and open forest gorge country in a temperate sub tropical woodland. University of New England PhD Thesis.Berman, D. and P.J. Jarman (1988). Feral horses in the Northern Territory. Volume 4: Environmental impact of feral horses in central Australia. A report prepared on behalf of the University of New England, Armidale for the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory.I would suggest that you refer to the over 50 years of research that shows that grazing by cattle particularly in alpine, sub alpine and montane ecosystem in Australia does not reduce fire risk. There are many in the grazing community who beg to differ but some vested interests there, not to mention that there is 50 years of peer reviewed research to say otherwise, . Here is a good starting point:http://www.ecolsoc.org.au/hot-topics/alpine-grazing-does-it-reduce-blazing
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Happy Jack over 3 years ago
I admire the inventiveness of the arguments voiced here by the obviously pro-brumby contributors. I have no trouble recognising the signs of a horse from a deer, pig, cattle or rabbit! (I can however be confused between small mammals and some rodents). So I have no trouble spotting what caused a particular area of damage. ... Maybe we can target the pigs after we have solved the brumby issue. But this is currently about brumbys... so let’s stay on track..I am tempted to title this blurb... " Hawkweed and Horses"A bit like the iconic brumby, the hawkweed is a pretty thing to look at (in flower) and I am sure that in a garden it is much loved. However when it gets away and into the Park it will spread, unless managed by humans. It is very good at setting seeds and speeading "out of control". Can you see my rather contrived parallel to the brumbys?The real point is that humans have introduced this and many other species, and I believe it our responsibiity to "control" them as they won't control themselves. (don't get me started on what we need to do to control our own race)Now this topic is about species not just (pest?) animals... isn't it?Dispite it being a pretty flower, each flowering season, a band of dedicated volunters under the management of the KNP spread out across Kosi and map every Hawkweed infestation they can find. (fortunately a Hawk weed does not run off so a GPS reading means that a followup team can "eradicate" each plant... and keep coming back to catch any seeds that pop up.)Fortunately for the park, there does not seem to be an emotionally charged Hawkweed supporters group. So it's eradication is not contentious.Why are we acting against the hawkweed? because it is an introduced species that competes with the natives..The brumbies it seems are going to be a bigger test of our mettle. We have an up-hill battle if the evidence of our eyes and what seems obvious logic for the need to control the brumbys is to triumph over the emotions of every persion who has read and taken to heart, the images of those "silver animals" by Elyne Mitchell and Bango. The brumby is now part of the Australian physic. and not just in the bush, the strongest support comes from our big cities where the romantic idea is now solidly imbedded along with a 4WD that only goes shopping and Australia's senic National parks that exist for ever in coffee table picture books.Back to the point... Yes! introduced species compete with native ones... because ALL species compete. If we want to preserve the parks as we found them, then we must be the ones to control the new species we allowed to be introduced. If we don't, then the parks we end up with will not be the same as those we created and the animals and plants and vistas we created the parks to preserve will be lost.
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Donna over 3 years ago
You're right, the arguments are quite inventive from both sides, including your quite convenient analogy above! Yes the horses are an introduced species and as such MUST compete with the native flora and fauna on various levels, however the exact level of impact and competition is far too much of a grey area in terms of proof and as such requires further research.One particular sentence of yours stands out to me Happy Jack - "If we want to preserve the parks as we found them....."then the parks we end up with will not be the same as those we created". The horses were in the 'park' when we 'found it' and part of the land before we 'created' anything, I think that alone gives them the right to be considered as part of a piece of land we decided to call a National Park, without question. WE created the problem, the area, the mismanagement, the myths, the prejudices. WE must be the ones to manage the results responsibly and this does not mean eradicating a species, whether introduced or not, simply because it's convenient. For every action there is a reaction and I truly hope NPWS decide to be proactive rather than reactive in their future management.
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Happy Jack over 3 years ago
Good points, Donna.(Though I really wanted to put in a plug for the good work being done on the hawkweed) sorry if it was a stretch too far for you :-)But as usual nothing is really simple. The initial Kosi Park came into existence in 1906, Kosciuszko State Park was proclaimed in 1944, it was last updated as the Kosciuszko National Park we know today in 1967. Yes, I am sure there were some wild horses even in 1906... (Banjo's Man from Snowy River is most likely set in the very southern extremes of the park, if not actually in Victoria) but the number of horses then were nowhere near todays problem numbers, and their impact was virtually un-noticed. Horses were a valuable asset not something to be let go, and many Kosi locals have pulled the odd foal or two out of the park herds over the years. (Unfortunately, less so today). My point is that the park as created is definitely changing. I have been going to the same areas in the park for over 40 years, plus constantly poking around in new and different areas. I have been lucky enough to have access to some of the remotest parts of the park and have spoken with some of the old timers (now sadly missed). I believe this has given me a good insight into the changing condition of the park. It is still a wonderful place, but it is under threat! (not just from horses either). Most people I speak with want the horse numbers "Managed" but do not want the horses totally removed from the park. This, I think, is the ideal outcome, i.e. get the numbers back under control and continue to manage them.Was it "Yes minister" where they created a committee to investigate problems they really wanted to just ...go away? .."requires further research.." sounds a bit like that.A lot of research has actually been done and continues, in the park. If the scientists think there is a problem, and park users complain about the impact of the horses, that should be enough to initiate a conversation on the possible actions and desired outcomes, (exactly that we have here). The comments on this forum are just additional input to the coming action, (or in-action) plan. In the mean time, I am waiting for October so I can get back to "controlling" the introduced and feral trout population.
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Donna over 3 years ago
Cheers Happy Jack, you've made a few good points yourself, though of course I disagree with most of them lol. You do have me confused somewhat by your comment that you think the ideal outcome would be to get the numbers back under control and continue to manage them; are you personally of that opinion or is that your interpretation of the preferred result of the brumby supporters? As to research having been done, I'm not sure what specific study you're referring to regarding the impacts proved to be caused conclusively by the horses themselves, nor do I know of any independent studies completed on ALL aspects of the horses presence in the park, both negative and positive, hence my belief further research IS required. With regard to the supposed number of horses, I think we'll wait to learn the results of the recent survey and go from there, to discuss the numbers gained from old reports is futile and I think we've heard plenty of estimates from others.One last point I'd like to make though is to do with your previous comment Happy Jack, where you've mentioned the battle for the evidence to triumph over the emotions of people enamoured by the stories and images of those "silver animals" and Banjo. This is something we hear quite often, those of us who support the preservation of what we believe to be our heritage, and as popular as it seems to be to portray us all as overemotional illogical fanatics, we persist. And yes, it is partly due to the fabulous Silver Brumby books every young Australian should read, and the beautiful unmatched poetry of Banjo Paterson who is so intrinsic to us as a nation his work is part of our school curriculum and features on our currency, but it is also about the way our country was formed and built; literally on the back of a horse. It's about the spirit of this country, the battles and the battlers, the harshness of life here and our resilience and success; all of which we'd never have achieved without the horse, specifically OUR horses, those our forefathers bred not just to work but to survive and endure, to do the 'hard yakka' and cope with our 'she'll be right' attitude no matter how hard the job. Oddly enough these are the same traits commonly thought to be 'native' to Australians in particular and something we pride ourselves on. We are not the odd ones out to believe these horses are as equally Australian as you or I, indeed it would be more of an oddity not to. We need look no further than any 'uniquely Australian' art works, literature, film, advertising or even our Olympic Games ceremony to know these horses are part of our roots and not only should they be acknowledged and treated as such, they are already believed to be so.
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Happy Jack over 3 years ago
You state my case so well. :-)Just remember ... at the end ... "and turned their heads for home" ... out of the bush and into a yard. The real horses were working horses, they were no use to anyone living wild,except as a resource to be gathered back up and used. They were pests, stealing mares (not sure why the colt ran off with them, but Banjo was after all a newspaper hack) .Bring back the bullock teams - I say. Less emotional baggage and not likely to breed up in the parks... they did a lot more work in their day than all the stock horses.btw... Happy Jack was actually a horse.Thats it... I'm out o here!
peter_mcc over 3 years ago
Whilst you may be technically correct about the horses being there when the park was proclaimed they are certainly an introduced species and haven't been there "forever" - they are not a part of the natural Australian landscape.
Themba over 3 years ago
Localboy,Sorry, I wasn't actually referring to reintroduction. I meant more about studies on what happens when animals such as horses are removed from areas. For example: We know the horses have been there for well over 100 years and given nature's way of adapting it would be interesting to find out if there are any inter-dependencies of plants and/or other animals on the grazing behavior of the horses?Rabbits are declared feral pets but we also know the Wedge Tail Eagles feed on them. So, what I would really like to see is a study on what the consequences are of removing the horses. There are alot of studies focusing on the negative impacts of the wild horses but no one appears to have looked at it from the point of what positive impacts the horses may have on the environment. Before we go removing the horses and possibly causing greater unforseen damage I believe it would be useful to find this out. Unfortunately we humans have a tendency to "fiddle" with the environment to make it what we think it should be and along the way cause more damage!The studies regarding cattle and fire reduction are interesting when you consider that we are told to keep vegetation short and clear around dwelling to reduce fire risk. We are also advised to have at least one paddock eaten down so stock can be moved there in case of fire and reduce the risk of stock loss. It seems a contradiction really!
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Mbidgee over 3 years ago
Horses as a species may have been present in the mountains for 100 years, but about 10,000 feral horses is a very recent occurrence. The habitat is changing in response to these 10,000 horses by rapidly turning into muddy bogs, but true adaptation takes thousands of years. We do not want the habitats to adapt to horses, because that means it would no longer be suitable to those native species that used it before it adapted to a different species.Graziers can use stock to eat down a paddock to reduce fire risk. However, this approach does not work in open spaces where the 'stock' of feral horses is not restrained to a small area by fences. Once an area is well grazed the feral horses are likely to move on to other areas, where there is better quality feed, so the idea of using horses or cattle to reduce the fire risk in unfenced areas does not take into account their grazing behaviour or the fact that they are not in a paddock. In other words, grazing to reduce fire risk will never work in a natural area. In any case, even if natural areas in the mountains are grazed, there can still be considerable fire fuels remaining when the usually moist habitats (that will not burn) dry out in drought years, and then can burn. Much of this fuel could be tough unpalatable species that are not grazed by horse which would be picking out the best feed.
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Buckrunner over 3 years ago
Mbidgee the real brumby numbers are out now and the 10,000 figure is extremely incorrect, hence their delay in releasing the numbers! The 6,000 brumbies estimated in the latest survey are not causing the impacts you are suggesting!
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Mbidgee over 3 years ago
There is clear evidence from observations, displayed in photos, that there is severe impacts by feral horses, especially in some habitats and locations. If that damage is caused by only 6,000 horses rather than 10,000, it is even more cause for concern: what will the damage be like if the numbers rise to 10,000?
Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
Hi Localboy, I support your pragmatic approach to seriously researching the positive impacts the horses may have on the environment, this is precisely what we need to aid overall wild Horse management decisions. from Bio-Brumby
HVBA Vice President over 3 years ago
Yes obviously introduced species compete with natives for space and food, that's what species do when the co-exist within an environment. A quick EPBC search (http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/pmst/index.html) finds that in the area of the KNP there are 10 introduced birds, 10 introduced plants and 11 mammals (4 of which have hard hoofs). It seems strange that the horses get the attention they do when they are only one of many introduced species. It is hard to distinguish what is trampling the broad tooth rat habitat, pigs, cattle, deer or horses, and as far as I know there have not been any studies on this, so this is only the observational experience of the ranger that it is actually the horses. There is research that has been done that found that if you had negative feelings about the horses, you perceived a higher level of damage than if you felt positively about the horses (http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30007265/adams-managingferalhorses-2007.pdf) this makes sense, but its not good news for the horses when most people who are doing this sort of observational research believe they should not be in the park. This is why we need more research into the actual damage (or lack there of) that the horses are doing. There would not be much point in spending all this money trying to remove the horses from an area if they weren't actually having any impact, and you should have been spending it on the pigs because it turns out they are what are causing the problem. At this stage, unfortunately, we just have such large gaps in the research that its difficult to work out the best management strategy.
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Mbidgee over 3 years ago
There are virtually no feral cattle in Kosciuszko NP, so its not cattle trampling the habitat. You seem to doubt whether observation alone can ascertain what animal is doing the damage: it would seem obvious that any animal doing the damage would be leaving tracks in the soft creekside habitats, and I think it would be pretty easy to tell the difference between the prints of pigs, deer and the feral horse hoofprints. I'd trust the Rangers observations of the print marks as well as the animals themselves.
peter_mcc over 3 years ago
I think the reason the horses get more attention than they deserve is because nobody has a problem with NPWS killing wild pigs, deer or cattle.From my observations, around the Dead Horse Gap area it is horses causing the problems - pigs don't leave huge mounds of poo everywhere, including where the damage is
AOAC over 3 years ago
HVBA Vice President - I don't believe the study that you refer to is applicable to people undertaking observational research.The study was based of a questionnaire sent 500 people within two victorian towns, selected at random. It demonstrates that a persons "totemisation" of feral horses does influence their opinion on the environmental damage caused.Quoted from the study - "The results suggest that those with positive attitudes towards feral horses tend to reject, or are unaware of, the potential impacts of feral horses on native environments."However, the study continues - "Those who hold the view that feral horses are causing substantial damage tend to express negative attitudes towards feral horses." This is interesting as it is the believe in horses causing damage that brings on peoples opposition to the horses, not the other way around. What starts this initial belief in the damage caused? I'm not sure, but I would say first hand experience is a major factor.The reason why I believe this study does not support your statement that "its not good news for the horses when most people who are doing this sort of observational research believe they should not be in the park" is because the study focused on the average person, instead of targeting those who have first hand experience, or undertake observational research. I don't see how it supports your suggestion that experts will incorrectly attribute damage caused by animals to horses because they aren't a "horse person".
Bio-Brumby over 3 years ago
Bio-Brumby thoughts;Evolution continually changes ecologies, flora & fauna. Everything is ‘competing’ and nature favours the survival of the most adaptable species. Research indicates the key threats for the Broad Tooth Rat are climate change, competition from rabbits, high frequency fires, fox, pig and cat predation and exotic perennial invasion(Odum et al 2003). However overabundance of any species, can shift the balance. I suggest we need to identify the proportion of damage and whether the damage is sufficient to threaten a species survival and manage the situation by lowering the threat species level to one that can positively assist biodiversity without negative impacts. The question is not whether species compete but whether one species is pressing another species such that it is at risk of becoming threatened. The key to evolution and survival is the ability to adapt. Brumbies contribute to biodiversity, but do this best when their numbers to not exert undue pressure on Australian ecology. From Bio-Brumby
Catherine Russell over 3 years ago
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