The use of culling in the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan remains a divisive and highly emotional issue for many.
Intriguingly, just days after the call for horse culling went out and triggered a backlash from team brumby, the government began advertising for a chief pig hunter to oversee the annihilation of the pesky porkers.
Was there an outcry? Did advocates rally to save the pigs and accuse the government of over-inflating numbers and the environmental threat? Of course not. We all agree that feral pigs are a serious problem in need of a solution.
So why are we so divided on horses? Is it The Man From Snowy River, The Silver Brumby and tales of the Australian Light Horse?
Whatever the answer, it seems the NSW Government is unlikely to get a decisive answer after calling for feedback on a plan to resume aerial shooting to try to stay on top of the rapidly growing brumby population.
In a recent poll, Region Riverina asked readers: Should the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan be amended to allow aerial shooting?
With three options to choose from and more than 800 votes, the Yes and No remained in the balance as the votes rolled in.
At last count, 48 per cent agreed that Yes, brumby populations desperately need to be controlled, while the No vote was split, with 40 per cent calling for the brumbies to be entirely left alone and 12 per cent accepting that something needs to be done but aerial culling is not the answer.
Among the Facebook comments, many kept it simple, declaring “Save the Brumbies!”, while others took the time to explain their vote.
According to Helen, a self-described “vegetarian who grew up reading The Silver Brumby”, horses do not belong in the park and must be “removed from the fragile alpine environment”.
“We need to set aside sentimentality and recognise the damage they are doing to biodiversity,” she said.
“The other creatures that rely on that environment are just as important. If you don’t approve of aerial culling, work out how to fund and implement an alternative solution.”
Paul agreed that all options should be on the table, pointing to the “substantial environmental impacts” of the brumbies, adding that “they are also a biosecurity risk – potential carriers of Hendra virus and Japanese encephalitis. ACT, NT, and WA all cull feral horses.”
But Lyn was one who pushed back, pointing to recent criticism of the counting method designed by Dr Stuart Cairns.
“The true numbers by Stuart Cairns not 14,000 bs [brumbies] he saw 1180 that’s it,” she commented and linked to an article outlining the arguments of the anti-culling Snowy Mountain Brumby Sustainability Management Group (SMBSMG).
The group claims that the Cairns method, used by the government to make its management decisions, is flawed and that the actual count of 1180 was incorrectly extrapolated using an algorithm.
The most recent official count of wild horses in the park, in November 2022, estimated 18,814.
In June, the SMBSMG gathered 72 people to assist with a brumby count at Long Plain and discovered only a handful of animals, dead or alive.
The government is committed to reducing the number of horses to 3000 by 30 June 2027.
The draft amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan proposes to “authorise aerial shooting as an available method to control wild horses, in addition to existing methods such as ground shooting, trapping and rehoming”.
You have until 11 September to have your say and you can do so here.
As for the feral pigs, it seems their time is up and if you see yourself as the first NSW Feral Pig Coordinator, you can apply for the job here.
Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.