What perspectives on wild horse management resonate with you? and why?

by Catherine Russell, about 3 years ago
Thank you for your contribution to this discussion. This discussion is now closed but you can still view the material and the discussion.

Wild horse management in National Parks attracts a broad spectrum of views. Here are four perspectives – what resonates with you? What stands out? What challenges your views? 

Listen to Leisa Caldwell, Madison from the Hunter Valley Brumby Association, David Chief Inspector of NSW RSPCA, Mick from NPWS, Rob from the Nature Conservation Council of NSW. 

This series of video presentations were made at the November 21st Century Townhall, an innovative consultation approach that draws together 150 people including stakeholders and the general public to examine the Wild Horse Management Plan and to provide input that will help redraft the approach to wild horse management Kosciusko National Park.

Donna about 3 years ago
I'm sure it will come as a surprise to none, but I find Madison's video resonates with me the most. Not because we're both 'pro brumby' as most would assume; but because it was evident she considered the actual welfare of the horses above cost, or practicality or politics. To me, the humaneness of any method used is paramount and supersedes these considerations first and foremost. Most will disagree with me on that one, but hey that's nothing new!Humaneness is not relative. It is not 'open to interpretation' or negotiable. It is defined as it is because it implies treatment we as human beings would expect for ourselves. I'm not alone in thinking shooting from a helicopter doesn't even come close to that definition. We cannot allow sub standard practices to be used to cull these horses, or in fact any animal we're 'managing'. Above all me must never determine our level of humaneness by cost. One standard and only one.
Hide Replies (7)
Khankhan about 3 years ago
Many other contributors to this forum want to see a significant reduction in the number of feral horses in KNP. Can any of the above contributors offer any reasonable, and not totally financial or resource consuming, method of taking thousands of horses out of KNP in a relative short time? Sterilization methods (however high tech. they might now be protrayed as) allow feral horses to remain in the park for a further 10-20 years, so impacts are not reduced.
Hide Replies (5)
Bio-Brumby about 3 years ago
Hi Khankhan,A few thoughts to add to your comments.Population count for 2014 gave 6,000, NPWS have improved to a level they can passive trap 670 Brumbies annually.This trap rate, plus fertility control (Horses do not have to be trapped to deliver the vaccine) is more than sufficient to show such methods can control wild horse populations.But - first we need scientific based figures on what are sustainable wild horse numbers, then we adapt the current methods to meet that goal.I see no reason to remove ‘thousands’, in fact NPWS figures show there were 5,200 wild horses in KNP in 2001 & 6,000 in 2014. I calculate this to be a 1.5% increase in Brumby populations since 2001. Impacts can be from many different causes; climate change, pigs, deer, cats, rabbits, foxes, humans as well as horses. Each must be identified as separate impacts, otherwise putting considerable cost and effort to remove one species only will just be a waste of time & costs. Fertility control may still leave horses in the park, but with their natural predators of dogs, snakes and wild fire, plus old age, these will soon lower. Regards, Bio-Brumby
Hide Replies (4)
Khankhan about 3 years ago
Hello Bio-BrumbyWe will just have to agree to disagree on both your estimates and how past and current passive trapping processes have reduced feral horse numbers. Its still an average of 200 horses per year that have been taken out of KNP. Somewhat lower than 11% or 23% (you can again dispute these growth rates, which are not birth rates, they are the number of horses increasing each year in KNP and the Alps). That is they are rates that take into account all of your suggestions on natural predators, wild-fire, age, etc.Similarly on impacts, I and others constantly put graphic photographic links and scientific evidence up to you and your colleagues and these are repeatedly disputed.
Hide Replies (3)
Bio-Brumby about 3 years ago
Hi Khankhan,Unsure the basis to disagree with NPWS & Michelle Dawson's population figures of: 5,200 wild horses in KNP in 2001 and 6,000 in 2014. My maths is not good, but could be close to 1.5% and as you rightly point out, takes into consideration NPWS passive trapping and natural attrition from predators, life cycles etc. over that period. NPWS passive trap removal may average 200 when taking figures that include the skill development period. The fact is that they have improved and have shown they can remove 670 in one year. Would a learner drive accept being told their driving skills over a 12 month period from start to pass level actually, when averaged, demonstrated a level well below the pass rate? To me 670 wild horses trapped in one year is a significant number. Agree we disagree on impacts - Scientific, peer reviewed studies to compare impact areas with sustainable levels and all other threats able to cause impacts, KNP area by area, such variation on sustainable management levels would help. Regards, Bio-Brumby
Hide Replies (2)
Perplexed about 3 years ago
Bio Brumby, with respect you also fail to factor in that the 2003 wildfires across the park essentially halved the feral horse population in one hit, if you believe the figures. I have found it interesting that many horse supporters throughout the discussions on this forum are quick to question and criticise the survey results when they are high and showing population continues to trend upward, but are quite willing to accept and support the aerial survey results when they show the population was halved by the 2003 fires ( Go figure??) To be comparing the 2001 survey results to the 2014 results is really disingenous, unless of course you are advocating that the population needs another big hit to bring it back under control. In the abscence of another fire event at the scale of 2003 the only real option to achieve large scale knock down of the poulation quickly is aerial culling or an extensive ground shooting program
Hide reply (1)
HVBA Vice President about 3 years ago
I feel we are going over old ground here. Populations are known to "explode" after catastrophic events (such as wildfire or aerial culling) and breed at a higher rate to refill up until the resources allow. The use of the population after the wildfire as a starting population for predicting future growth was unreasonable, and surprise surprise, was way off. Not once has anyone actually done a comparison of means in their studies, so we actually don't know if there was ever any real difference between any of the populations, still this has not been explain to me as to why this was never asked for when it is the one thing we actually care about. I hope it is included in the new report.
Jindygal about 3 years ago
We have to be open-minded about what is possible, when it comes to being humane. I could argue that leaving an animal to die naturally in increasing pain from the maladies of old age is not humane. To let it starve is not humane. To let one animal prey on another and kill or maim it is not humane. The natural world is not always humane for animals. The cost is an element in how we can manage anything. Tax-payer funded budgets are no more infinite than our own household budgets but some comments in the conversations seem to think that taxpayers can foot any bill. Humane and cost effective control methods can be the same thing. They are not mutually exclusive.
Bio-Brumby about 3 years ago
Four overall perspectives resonated with me from the above Queanbeyan speakers 29-Nov-2014;I came away from that day realising that all of us in the room had far more in common with our love for KNP values than differences, however the questions/answers presented that day seemed to polarise views i.e. native species OR wild horses, when many would have voted both in sustainable numbers. A tick for Brumbies was easy to interpret as being anti-native flora & fauna, which we are not, but with no 'sustainable balance' choice we had no option but vote Brumby. I am increasingly convinced that, had we focussed on managing sustainable numbers, not the all or nothing approach, we could have made inroads into understanding all view points and even found a range of balanced, practical management options. Unfortunate the Queanbeyan meeting did not keep to earlier advice that ‘off the street’ people could ask stakeholders questions to better understand written material provided by Straight talk to inform their voting decisions.Lastly I was extremely disappointed to see that from a long list of key management options, the stake holder group table supporting the Executive Nature Conservation Council NSW video put humane Brumby management at the bottom of all other management options, and seemed to smile at Brumby stake holders as they stated their table’s position.Maddison’s video; I valued the more in-depth understanding of humaneness that cost must not be the deciding factor.I identified with Maddison’s connection to KNP’s ecosystem, flora, fauns, landscapes etc. including seeing Brumbies living wild, andFound interesting her view that labelling an animal feral leads to people feeling welfare standards are less, such as using 1080 bait. Dave’s video;Talked of relative humaneness for feral animals but not 'the most humane’ method.Agreed that if a wild horse is not being rehomed it is preferable to euthanize on site, rather than truck long distances to an abattoir.Not sure about Dave’s reference to suitable rehoming groups. Presumably this is similar to RSPCA animal shelter adoption. My preference is sound guidelines and allow the adopted/rehomed animal a chance.Mick’s video;Interested in Mike’s comments on KNP cast systems made me wonder if Brumbies are actually putting cast systems at risk?Glad Mike spoke of humane methods and community perceptions on animal management.Glad Mike spoke of respecting values on people’s views of core KNP values, Brumbies and recreational values etc. As I am convinced we need a balanced approach to all this.Rob’s video;Rob (Executive Nature Conservation Council NSW) spoke of low key KNP use like walking or skiing, andSeemed only slightly concerned of the pain & distress resulting from administering 1080 bait to feral foxes.So, these are my perspectives on the Queanbeyan day where the videos above were shown. Regards, Bio-Brumby
Themba about 3 years ago
The presentation by HVBA Vice President Madison is the one that resonates the most with me. Madison clearly stated the need for humane treatment of the horses and what that meant.The RSPCA presentation concerned me by the use of the term "relative humaneness", which I found to be very "fuzzy" in it's exact meaning. It appeared to me that David was saying that "relative humaneness" was ok to use on wild animals but not on domestic animals which I found quite strange. Either something is humane or it isn't regardless of the animal involved.The other two presentations appeared to me to be focusing on the human use of the park more than anything else. For example, the cave system was mentioned quite a bit and how vulnerable it is. I'm not aware of the horses using the caves but they are a major tourist attraction for hordes of people. If the caves are so vulnerable then why are so many people encouraged to visit them unless it is to do with money. I was also surprised at the statement from Rob about 1080 poison, as in "they do suffer a bit", just a slight understatement there!
KWebster about 3 years ago
After viewing all of the video presentations to get a whole view of the issue from all perspectives I am quite concerned about the actual welfare of the horses. Madison was the only individual who defined what humaneness meant from their perspective. While we are offered only the choice of either pro brumby or anti brumby the method of management needs to be humane no matter what. I understand the need for these brumbies to be 'managed' but this needs to be done in a humane way. I fully support the views of Madison and the HVBA.
Hide Replies (3)
Catherine Russell about 3 years ago
Thank you KWebster for taking the time to review the perspectives. You may also wish to view and read the forum 'What does humane treatment mean to you?". Animal welfare and humane treatment is a key consideration in any method of control for introduced animals like wild horses. The RSPCA are involved in the control program to ensure control and removal processes complies with animal welfare Codes of Practice. (See Page 29 section 9.3 Monitoring of humaneness in the Wild Horse Management Plan. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/KNPHorseManagementPlanFinal08.pdf
Hide Replies (2)
HVBA Vice President about 3 years ago
Here are some sections of the POCTA that relate to this matter.Part 2: Section 5 - Cruelty to animals3) A person in charge of an animal shall not fail at any time:(a) to exercise reasonable care, control or supervision of an animal to prevent thecommission of an act of cruelty upon the animal,(b) where pain is being inflicted upon the animal, to take such reasonable steps asare necessary to alleviate the pain, or(c) where it is necessary for the animal to be provided with veterinary treatment,whether or not over a period of time, to provide it with that treatment.Maximum penalty: 250 penalty units in the case of a corporation and 50 penaltyNSWP rangers are in charge of the horses in the park. Can they ensure that if aerial culling is carried out, they can take the reasonable steps to provide veterinary treatment to alleviate the pain (euthanise) of those horses that are miss hit. Or is it deemed "reasonable" to make no attempt to locate that horse if it is feral and in a difficult location. Perhaps it is just an out of sight out of mind thing and you can claim ignorance because you "didn't realise" it was miss hit. Although I'm pretty sure ignorance does not apply in a case where you have been told so many times on this forum that this will happen. In fact I would say that when so many people have called again and again for a method to be abandoned because of its inhumaneness that you would have quite a bit of difficulty explaining in court why you used such a method. Remember the 27 charges of inhumane conduct brought against NSWP after the guy fawkes atrocities...just because they convinced the RSPCA to settle on one act, doesn't mean the rest of us have forgotten about the other 26...part of the reason we don't trust the rspca when it comes to this issue.Part 2: Section 8 - Animals to be provided with food, drink or shelter(1) A person in charge of an animal shall not fail to provide the animal with food, drinkor shelter, or any of them, which, in each case, is proper and sufficient and which itis reasonably practicable in the circumstances for the person to provide.Maximum penalty: 250 penalty units in the case of a corporation and 50 penalty unitsor imprisonment for 6 months, or both, in the case of an individual.NSWP had better be prepared to bottle feed all the foals orphaned by aerial culling, or locate them and destroy them, which I assume would be the preference of some.Part 2: Section 11 - Animals not to be abandonedA person shall not abandon an animal.Maximum penalty: 250 penalty units in the case of a corporation and 50 penalty unitsor imprisonment for 6 months, or both, in the case of an individual.This is another reason NSWP will have to ensure every single foal is found and dealt with humanely, if you kill its mother and leave it to starve you are abandoning it.So many reasons to completely take this method off the table, in fact I think we could have come up with a really good solution if this method was not being discussed at all, but it was not to be.
Hide reply (1)
Themba about 3 years ago
You make some excellent points which I hope NSWP take on board. I think they also need to take into consideration that the Australian and International communities will be watching very carefully if they do decide to go down the road of aerial culling. They should also expect to see local and International condemnation if this happens which will damage the reputation of NSWP and Australia and result in lost revenue to the snowy region.I strongly agree with you that it would have been possible to come up with a really good solution if aerial culling had not been included in the discussions. I think it has wasted valuable time that could have been much better utilised discussing ways to find non lethal management ways.