How could the community be more involved in monitoring and measuring the impacts of wild horses?

by Catherine Russell, over 3 years ago
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It was proposed in the existing plan that NPWS establish partnerships with Universities and interest groups to do long term monitoring of erosion, population, habitat, grazing trails, weed transmission and the impacts on threatened species (see page 28). Could we do this? Could we look to local people and regular visitors to the park to provide images or log information about key locations using an smart phone application? What ideas could help monitor or measure the impacts?


Themba over 3 years ago
I think NPWS would need to be very careful with this type of proposal. It has been made quite clear from these forums that people will make quite outrageous claims to back up their own views of whether the horses should be removed. The input would need to be proven as fact and not just hearsay on the behalf of people who have their own agenda. It would be very easy for those apposing the horses to inundated NPWS with pictures and data that is swayed towards their agenda of total removal of the horses. This would make for a very one-sided gathering of data. NPWS would also need to spend resources in collecting and correlating the data received and putting it into a format that all people could understand. There would need to be widespread advertisement of this proposal if it were to go ahead to ensure that all people, for and against the horses, have the opportunity to provide information to NPWS.
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youngconservationist over 3 years ago
Yes because the scientists who are trained to understand ecological systems and the scientific method have a agenda, whereas people who love horses above all else don't have one. How about we let the experts to the science - wait they have and have demonstrated impacts. We don't want people for and against horses lining up with pseudo science. We want trained scientists and ecologists to input on the debate based on evidence not emotion. The only people actually with an agenda here are people like you. If horses were actually doing no damage I can't image many people caring about then being in the park. Why would they want horses removed, if not because of their impact?
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Themba over 3 years ago
I'm sorry but, lets not forget that scientists are more often than not funded by the government or that they are people with their own ideas and beliefs. Just because a person is a scientist does not make what they are saying correct. It seems you have already made up your mind and it wouldn't matter what I said to the contrary! I think you are forgetting about the human tendency to blame anything but themselves when things don't go the way they want. I am not saying the horses are not doing any damage only that we need to acknowledge that people do far more damage and stop looking for a scapegoat to blame for our own shortcomings.
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youngconservationist over 3 years ago
Are you a scientist, or an expert in the field? So the government is whispering in the ear of scientists saying 'hey for some unknown reason we hate horses please make up evidence they are impacting the park' Yep that seems likely. Personally I'll take the word of an expert over a lay person every day of the week, after all that is the purpose of experts. I don't disagree with the human problem being greater (in some areas), but this discussion is about horse management.
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HVBA Vice President over 3 years ago
I am a scientist, and I must say I have been quite disappointed by the research I have seen so far. I have heard of this sort of behavior many times since leaving uni, and have also seen it in action, but it still upsets me because, like you I like to believe that mostly scientists are above that, mostly we just want answers and we don't care what they are. Unfortunately research in this country is very under valued and extremely under funded. This means that people have to work very hard to produce the results that their empolyers will be happy with otherwise it is unlikely they will get another job. As there is so few jobs (particularly for us Enviro's) its easy to see how this could quickly become a problem if you don't the produce appropriate results. I'm not saying people lie, or make it up, or anything like that, I'm just saying that the experiments are drafted in such a way that there is really only ever one outcome. Critical information is excluded, factors that matter are ignored, and statistics are twisted, phases crafted so that a negative result can still seem positive. That's why I always call for peer review literature. This kind of research doesn't suffer as much from this sort of employer bias. I'm sure it is still there, but mostly the idea is that your work is reviewed by someone completely impartial, its a fantastic system, with a trained eye you can spot the tricks that someone is playing almost immediately so they will be picked up and commented on during this process, and if the research isn't solid, it won't be published, or it won't be published in anything reputable anyway. This is why I say there is currently NO evidence of ANY impacts, negative or positive, of the Brumbies on the KNP, everyone acknowledges this is the case (no peer review literature) so we are left with only a couple of reports that have been payed for by vested interests, and the games that have been played are clear for the world to see.
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youngconservationist over 3 years ago
Still not sure why NPWS are seen as vested interest. Surely there interest is in conservation of the park? If horses were doing no harm why would they care? Yes I agree lack of peer reviewed science on horses in KNP specifically is disappointing, but given funding for ecology not surprising. But lets also acknowledge, that just because no one has published peer reviewed research on the topic in KNP specifically, that does not mean there is no impact. There is also no science to say horses are ok in the park. Science is very underfunded, especially the kind of long-term studies needed. I almost guarantee bids to fund horse research does not get the Government support you think it would. As an ecologist the photographic evidence, the demonstrated impacts of high grazing in these areas (peer reviewed), and the large number of studies conducted in parks across the USA with feral horse problems, provides enough evidence to act. We don't need absolute, 100% concrete evidence to act on ecological problems. No point waiting for 5 to 10 year studies, if by the end of this time the park is ruined. In this case the visual impacts provide overwhelming evidence of negative impacts. Precautionary principle which you would be aware of, would be to act on horse control now!
peter_mcc over 3 years ago
Themba I think the same "outrageous claims" are being made by the horse lovers too to back up that they should stay... it would be just as easy for the horse lovers to flood the system with pictures of happy horses doing no damage.Part of the problem is that the damage is obvious and so those against the horses have easy "proof" whilst the horse lovers are trying to show effectively "nothing" - ie that the horses have no or minor impact.From a few days spent at Blue Waterholes (near Yarrangabilly) I could "show" both sides of the argument by taking photos from one point - one looking at a damaged hillside/bank and one looking at an undamaged flat area/riverbank.As I'll say above, I don't think the monitoring is going to help all that much because neither "side" will trust the results.
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Khankhan over 3 years ago
NPWS scientists, rangers and field officers not only get out and around the park as part of their everyday work, but many also use the park for personal recreational purposes and go 'beyond their patch'. They actually know KNP well. They are furthermore responsible under the National Parks and Wildlife Act for the care, control and management of all national parks, historic sites, nature reserves, etc. Some public input, volunteerism, monitoring, feedback, praise and feedback, is good, but when it comes to an issue as divisive and as destructive as feral horse damage in KNP, Government ultimately must make the decision to control feral horses (as it has control programs for most other feral animals) and to do it in the most cost effective and efficient manner. If the miss-publicity surrounding the Guy Fawkes cull was not still such a 'red herring', the opportunity would have been taken after the 2003 fires when feral horse numbers had been reduced in some areas, and to have undertaken a serious cull then. Had that occurred, we would not be dealing with increasing and extensive impacts and damage to our wet areas and river catchments and caught in the merry-go-round we are now on. Serious and expensive public consultation has been occurring since 2002 and there has been little change to the arguments from either side, and no change to the limited removal methods used. We talk on and on, and feral horse numbers and their associated impacts increase.
RobM over 3 years ago
without some beneficent philanthropist, there isn't going to be enough resources to do stuff to the degree of objective thoroughness to please everyone. Community, university, and not to forget , TAFE/ VET sector, and even school groups (sport and rec even) involvement in co-ordinated research is a way of making what little funding is available spin further. Dirty data is the inevitable risk but that can be ameliorated in part with sound project design and data volume. it is not like stuff like this hasn't been done before, with varying degrees of success to learn from. Volunteer groups exist through the park for a variety of purposes, and there is also the network of KHA users and supporters, plus Bushwalkers NSW and affiliates, the pool of potential "eyes on the ground" is probably one of the highest of any NP in NSW.
peter_mcc over 3 years ago
I don't think it is worthwhile. It seems that neither "side" has any trust in the objectivity of the other. Horse lovers will claim any photos of damage are isolated or caused by other feral animals. Non-horse lovers will claim any photos of undamaged ecosystems are taken to specifically exclude the damaged bit.It's easy to show individual bits of damage but it's not very scientific - what matters more is the percentage of damage and it's change over time. I'm not sure random observations would help quantify that.Also, smart phones don't have coverage in large areas of the park where the horses are. If I was bushwalking I'd have my phone turned off to save the battery - it would be a pain to have to pull it out, wait for it to power up then log something each time.
HVBA Vice President over 3 years ago
What a fantastic discussion topic! It about time we had one asking for solutions, even if it should say "measuring POTENTIAL impact" because as has been previously stated many times, no one can provide any peer review literature on any actual impacts of the horses in the KNP. Admin you really need to be more careful with this sort of thing because it is seriously alienating people. But I will let it slide, again, and answer the question. Yes I think community involvement would be great! Lets put it back on those who want the horses gone to actually prove that they are causing all this apparent damage and hence need all of KNP resources to be funneled that way immediately. On the other hand, let those of us that want the horses to stay become more responsible for their management. The HVBA has been studying mobs here in the hunter for quite a few years and we now know them really well. We can tell you that the population has remained quite stable because we know who has had what foal and when. We can tell you which horse is which because they all have quite distinct markings, we know which horses have died, what the movements are between mobs, and what their territories are. We know that they prefer the open grassland to the heavily timbered areas, and that the creek only has about three crossing the entire length of it. We know things like for the past 5years at least, one mob has been run by two stallions that share three mares (this is extremely fascinating behaviour and we think possibly unique amoung brumbies, it is seen in New Zealand's wild horses). Why can't people who love the Kozi Brumbies be collecting this data too. More information is always better. Sure there will need to be some considerable debate on how this could work. Smart phones are a great tool. It could be an app that lets you check-in when you have seen a wild horse, why you were there, are you happy it was there, what you thought about it, how many do you think you saw etc etc This opens up a whole new way of gauging just how much tourist activity can be attributed to the horses as well. People could also say what condition the horses were in on a body score chart and report any injuries so that rangers would know if there were any animal welfare concerns. Training days could be run to teach people how to use the app, people would need to pay to participate, register to be involved and then buy the app, this can go towards funding park management and will help make sure the information is trustworthy. But this shouldn't be just about the horses, this could be about other animals and plants as well, native and introduced. The more data we have the better for all aspects of park management.
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Jen over 3 years ago
I think there is definitely a quite a number of people who would happily take part in such a system. Another non-technological option could also be maybe a notebook or clipboard with a drawn-up table in mountain huts where people could write down/report on brumby numbers and their condition based on where they have hiked from. They could also make mention of vegetation conditions if they have paid attention. I figure since people are often doing these walks and hikes and the huts tend to be frequent stop-over points you may as well utilise these places to gather information and see how it changes over time. Of course this would be highly subjective depending on the individual and their knowledge regarding what is considered to be a 'healthy' landscape or what a brumby in good condition looks like. Either way I do encourage the use of visitors as potential resources. I also do, like everyone else, recognise the need for further funding towards science and the environment!
populations over 3 years ago
The arguments for and against community monitoring and measuring revolve around budget and method of sampling / measurement. The reason for measuring is about protecting the snowy catchments / soils / water quality / karst systems etc. Given that water is essential - and for us the human population dependent on clean drinking water - one would think that we would do everything possible to observe, understand, study and no doubt measure the areas where our water arises. Measurement is by definition to 'count'. Measurement is not the question. The budget is the question. The NPWS needs proper funding from an consistent source and by definition, that means to be quarantined from political parties / changes of government. A combination of more well paid research scientists with community participation such as Landcare would probably work reasonably well and engage interested people in understanding the nature of catchment science and threats to catchment quality.
Happy Jack over 3 years ago
This is Titled.. "Have your say.." unfortunately those interested in the subject are mostly already aligned and predudiced in their one preferred outcome. (even if they have no actual vested interest).What we really want is people who will LISTEN! and be prepared to weigh the logical issues and hard evidence, not be swayed by emotion.But, alas, I suspect those impartial people are mostly not contributing on this site.So we are doomed to continue to attack and refute any view that may be weighted against our own embraced position, and reinforce those that appear to agree with and strengthen our side of the "discussion"