Forty-one scientists from 16 universities have written to the New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, to support the proposed cull of 90% of the brumby population in Kosciuszko national park.
They are backing a controversial NSW government plan to reduce the number of brumbies from 6,000 to 600 over 20 years, arguing it is needed to protect the delicate Alpine environment.
One of the signatories, Prof Don Driscoll from Deakin University, said the academics behind the letter represented the greatest pool of knowledge about Alpine ecosystems in the country. Horses were not compatible with nature conservation in a national park, Driscoll said.
“Horses are stock animals recently introduced and are not characteristic of this area, but threaten ecosystem processes, ecosystems and species that are characteristic,” he said on Friday.
He said the brumbies in Kosciuszko had degraded 48% of the national park and the current management strategy was not working. The population had increased from 4,200 in 2009 to 6,000 despite 450 being removed each year, he said.
Driscoll said the group believed the current rehoming system was not a humane solution because there was not enough demand for the brumbies. “Only 18% of 3,183 horses removed since 2002 were rehomed,” he said. “The remaining 82% of horses went to abattoirs after a long journey.
“Such prolonged transport was ranked as the worst animal ethics outcome of all the control options considered in the independent technical reference group report.”
Driscoll said the scientists did not agree with all aspects of the plan, arguing the 20-year time frame for the cull was too long and it would be humane to speed up the process.
The proposal has drawn the ire of some locals, brumby lovers and animal activists, with almost 250 people protesting against the plan in Sydney at the start of this month. Those protesting argue that the brumbies have been in the park for 150 years and shooting 90% of the population is unacceptable.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 19 Aug 2016.
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