Where are the Brumbies in the Alpine National Park? How many live there?
An aerial count conducted by Parks Victoria (PV) in 2014 showed that there are an estimated 2350 Brumbies in the Alpine National Park (ANP). This number is made up of a small population of around 100 – 120 living in the Bogong High Plains region in the north western end of the ANP and the remainder living in the eastern section of the ANP.
Brumbies are introduced – aren’t they causing damage to the ANP?
Currently there are no published studies on negative impacts by Brumbies. Up until now, all decisions have been made based on anecdotal reports only. The Draft Action Plan has a preliminary report on the environment attached to it, however this report is as yet not peer reviewed or published, which are basic credibility tests. We call on PV to undertake rigorous, transparent scientific studies PRIOR to undertaking any management program.
What makes Brumbies different to foxes? Or pigs?
Brumbies are the descendants of the horses that our settlers brought to this country. Their forebears made it possible to explore this vast nation, they ploughed the field, cleared grazing lands, carted heavy loads, delivered our mail and our milk and took our children to school. Once they started to run wild, these horses quickly went from surviving to thriving. Those that were highly strung wasted energy and lost weight then when the snows came, they perished. Those that couldn’t get by on minimal feed and survive droughtlike conditions also perished and then the ones that didn’t have great social skills also failed to survive. This left us with Brumbies who are hardy, sound, sociable and calm. The National Parks Act calls for National Parks to both preserve the flora and fauna within our National Parks and also to preserve our social and cultural heritage. Our Brumbies have surely earned place in our culture and history.
Can Brumbies live in our fragile Australian ecosystem without causing unacceptable impacts?
Our Australian lands were inhabited by Megafauna weighing many tonnes many many years before Brumbies arrived. Brumbies, like any other flora or fauna in Australia, can make positive contributions to the environment they inhabit when they are present in moderate numbers. Just as there were recently too many Koalas in the Otways, leading to overgrazing and health issues for both the gum trees and the Koalas, Brumbies have the capacity to over populate their environment. We support the humane, non lethal management of our Aussie Alpine Brumbies. Brumbies, with their preferential grazing habits, are known to graze introduced grass species, which are viewed as weeds in our Alpine areas. This can assist with minimising fire risks as well as allowing native grasses to thrive. Keeping grasses under control also enables various native animals to nest – in Kosciuszko for example, only kilometres from where Brumbies are trapped and removed, tractors are used to slash grasses so that the critically endangered Sun Moth can nest! This is not ecosystem management, it is targeting of a visible, peaceful species! We call on PV to allow Brumbies to remain in their homelands in humanely managed family mobs.
What are the overarching aims of the Protection of the Alpine National Park – Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan 2018-2020 (Draft)?
This is a good question. When we first started consulting with Parks Victoria (PV) way back in 2013, they were estimating that Brumby numbers had climbed to 9500 – despite the fact that locals were assuring them this was not the case. PV wanted to reduce the number to 2500 within five years. The aerial count, conducted by PV in 2014, showed that Brumby numbers were in fact, as low as 2350 – well below PVs five year aim. Given this figure, removing around 250 per year maximum would allow for an annual increase rate of 11% (this rate of increase has been shown to be consistently correct around the world, rather than the 27% rate of increase which lead PV to think that there were 9500 Brumbies galloping around the ANP)! Removing 400 per year from the Eastern Alps alone would actually lower the number overall, leaving our Victorian Alpine Brumbies more susceptible to extreme weather and fire events wiping them out completely.
Why does PV intend to remove all Bogong High Plains Brumbies when there are so few left and the environment at Bogong is so healthy with them present?
Bogong High Plains (BHP) is one of the healthiest ecosystems in the Alpine National Park. There have been 120 – 250 Brumbies present at BHP for many years, with up to 2500 Brumbies running wild there at the turn of the Twentieth century! The Brumbies have had minimal impact on the area and both Brumbies and environment look great. PV however, use a standardised ‘pest management framework’ whether dealing with blackberries, willow trees, pigs, deer or rabbits.... or Brumbies. This framework states that if the ‘pest species’ numbers are under a certain level, then the most cost effective way to manage them is to remove them entirely. Based on this, PV have advised us for several years, that despite our best efforts to show how healthy the environment at BHP is, their intention is to remove ALL Brumbies from BHP. To base this decision on cost, not the social and cultural heritage of our Bogong Brumbies, nor the environmental health, nor the welfare of the Brumbies is staggering. The environment is healthy as it is, with 100 - 20 large grazing creatures present, removing them is incredibly irresponsible. If any further Brumbies are removed, their face certain annihilation. We demand that PV retain a managed population of Bogong High Plains Brumbies present at Bogong High Plains for future generations to study and connect with.
How does PV plan to catch so many wild Brumbies to remove them?
V plan to use helicopter mustering and trapping to catch around 400 Brumbies each year from the ANP. At the point that the Draft Action Plan was released, PV has no staff members who have ever observed helicopter mustering firsthand. This is despite the fact that there is a very good helicopter mustering program run nearby in New Zealand with the Kaimanawa Wild Horses. Helicopter mustering programs run by contractors in the USA have had terrible welfare outcomes for the Mustangs, with broken legs and other ‘crash’ injuries requiring euthanasia ona daily basis during mustering operations. It is imperative that PV educate themselves on the risks associated with helicopter mustering and attend and observe musters such as the Kaimanawa WH Muster firsthand.
PV has undertaken trapping programs previously at Bogong High Plains and in the Eastern Alps, run by staff members who are paid regardless of how many Brumbies are caught. This is the only acceptable way to run trapping programs. PV are currently planning to use a mixture of staff and contractors to undertake trapping around 400 Brumbies annually in the Eastern Alps area alone. This is such a high number of Brumbies that we fear welfare of trapped Brumbies will be seriously affected. We call on PV to use only ‘in house’ , salaried staff to undertake trapping operations.
Who will catch the Brumbies?
PV plans to use a combination of contractors and staff to catch and remove the Brumbies. We have expressed grave concerns previously with contractors who are paid ‘per Brumby’ removed. We have seen firsthand where if there is a questionmark over welfare, paid staff are quick to release Brumbies that are deemed unsuitable for capture due to advanced pregnancy etc. When contractors are paid per Brumby, they are far less likely to make this call and cost themselves money. We call on PV to use only paid staff to capture our Alpine Brumbies, for the best welfare outcome for the Brumbies.
Will PV be using fertility control to allow older wild Brumby mares and stallions to live their lives out in their homes and lower foaling rates?
No. Although fertility control products such as PZP have been used in the USA for more than thirty years and are currently being implemented successfully with populations of around 3000 Mustangs, PVs ‘Technical Reference Group’ of ‘experts’ has refused to even consider using this humane, non lethal approach to managing free roaming wild Brumbies. Even though the Draft Action Plan states that it will implement a population monitoring program in the Eastern Alps and that they will be accessing the region for trapping, they say that fertility control has no application due to the inability to monitor Brumbies and due to poor access. This is simply not true! We call on PV to immediately develop and implement a humane fertility control program using a product such as PZP to lower the number of foals born and therefore removed from the ANP.
Just what is Passive Trapping?
Passive trapping involves setting up portable yards in an area frequented by Brumbies. The yards are ‘baited’ with mineral licks, molasses and lucerne to encourage the Brumbies to come and go. Once the Brumbies are comfortable, an automatic trigger is set on the gates which allows Brumbies to enter but not leave. Trapping is conducted overnight, when Brumbies are known to be calmer. We absolutely support this humane, best practice method of capturing Brumbies.
How does Helicopter Mustering work?
Helicopter mustering can range from a highly distressing method with significant and often fatal injuries to a much calmer method which enables family groups to be caught together. Contractors in the USA have developed a reputation for high speed musters and cowboy manoeuvres leading to frequent injuries. In comparison, the Kaimanawa Wild Horse muster in New Zealand has quite the opposite reputation, with the Wild Horses being mustered at a steady trot, keeping family groups together and allowing those with young foals to drop out of the muster. At the time of writing the Draft Plan, PV have not one staff member who has observed the New Zealand muster firsthand. We call on PV to undertake thorough study of helicopter muster and to plan for and run a humane, slow pace helicopter trial in conjunction with community observers prior to committing to this method.
Will Brumby Running be part of the Draft Action Plan?
Not at this stage. Over the years, there have been many serious welfare concerns regarding Brumby running. Being pursued by dogs and horse riders to be caught and then haltered and tied to trees is a highly stressful introduction to both humans and domestic life for our Brumbies. Methods such as passive trapping and fertility control are highly preferable. The RSPCA is currently reviewing this practice and it is not permitted currently. However, there is the possibility that due to pressure from contractor groups, this ban could be lifted. We call on PV to ban permanently capture of Brumbies by Brumby Running in favour of more humane methods.
Where will all the Brumbies go to once caught?
PV have advised that they will not have a ‘holding facility’ for trapped Brumbies, with Brumbies not rehomed directly from the ANP to be culled on site. This affects rescue groups ability to access and take in Brumbies for rehoming as well as affecting Brumby welfare through the development of ad hoc slaughter facilities. Many Brumbies will die simply because rescues cannot get to them in time to save them. We call on PV to set up a holding property such as the one run by NPWS in Blowering Depot to enable the sorting, settling and humane separation of caught Brumbies as well as to enable rescue groups to access them for rehoming.
How will 400 Brumbies be rehomed each year?
The answer to this is simple. They won’t be. There just are not enough rescues with the skills and funding to take in this number of Brumbies in Victoria. We call on PV to lower the number of Brumbies to be removed in the initial stages of the Draft Plan to allow for rescue groups to build programs to find more homes and PV staff to be trained in best practice capture and management methods. We also demand that Brumbies are made accessible to rescues at a central holding location.
How many rescues are currently set up to take Brumbies in Victoria?
Currently in Victoria, there is only one rescue devoted to taking in, training and finding homes for Brumbies directly from National Parks organisations. The Victorian Brumby Association (yes, us!). We are currently taking in around 50 Kosciuszko Brumbies each year and around ten to thirty Brumbies from the Bogong High Plains region of the ANP. As a 100% volunteer run charity, we are stretched to our limits to take this number of Brumbies, care for them and find them homes each year. If you can help in any way, now is the time to get in touch with a Brumby rescue or advocacy group in your area. Every one of use can and will make a difference!
Who can rescue ANP Brumbies?
Right now, anyone can. Sure that sounds great if you want to help, but there is a darker side to rescue which can often occur innocently, when good people take on more than they can handle. PV has no facility or expertise requirements for rehomers. This can lead to hoarding type situations, where those desperate to save Brumbies end up with more than they can feed and it can also lead to situations where those without appropriate skills and understanding of humane training methods are ‘cashing in’, homing poorly trained Brumbies too quickly to an unsuspecting member of the public. We call on PV to develop as a matter of priority, a list of rehomer requirements that will ensure best possible welfare is met for Brumbies taken from the ANP.
Is there a community group or stakeholder group who will have any input to the modification and further development of the Protection of the Alpine National Park – Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan 2018-2020 (Draft)?
There isn’t, but there needs to be! Community groups and stakeholder groups are a mirror for PV – they bring community expectations to the table and can act independently of PV of the better welfare of the Brumbies. Critically, they also give the whole program a level of transparency which is currently lacking. Such advisory groups, with RSPCA input, have been able to improve welfare and build community relationships in Brumby programs in other states. We call on PV to put together an independant Brumby Advisory Panel to oversee and advise on the trapping, culling and rescue/ rehoming of Brumbies from the ANP.
What support is PV offering to Brumby rescue groups?
No support has been offered at all. Rescue groups will continue to operate in an unregulated space with no benchmarks to meet in terms of welfare and no support from PV. We call on PV to build a support plan with rescue groups to assist them with the high costs of rescuing, training and rehoming Brumbies from the ANP Draft Plan of Management program.
What will happen if there is an extreme bushfire such as the one in Kosciuszko NP which killed more than 60% of the Kosi Brumbies in 2003? Or an extreme winter event which impacts Brumby populations? Will trapping stop to allow them to recover?
The Draft Action Plan doesn’t allow for any changes to the trapping program to support Brumbies during times when their populations are affected by dramatic weather. Removing more Brumbies in such times has the potential to completely wipe out our Alpine Brumbies. We ask that PV incorporate an element of flexibility into the final Action Plan to allow for extreme weather events and population risks.
What can I do about this?
Parks Victoria will cull as many Brumbies as they think that they can get away with. It is critical that as Australians, we all write to and call the relevant Ministers and Parks Victoria. If we don’t act, we could well be the generation that was on deck when the last Brumbies were removed from our public spaces. All contact details are on the main Fighting for Brumbies page.
All donations made to the VBA over $2.00 are tax deductible and go to wards helping
us care for and rescue more brumbies.
Information You Need To Know