An aerial survey earlier this year, the first since the 2019 bushfires, showed that feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales (NSW) have fallen by over a quarter leaving only 14,000 of them. However, ABC News reported that this number is still too big to be environmentally sustainable.
Now, authorities plan to cull 10,000 horses to control their rapidly growing population of animals not native to the country. However, scientists are still alarmed that thousands will remain and threaten endangered species and habitats despite this plane. Similarly, the US is also battling the same problem with the large populations of wild horses known as mustangs.
Culling and Preserving Australian Brumbies
A draft plan released by the NSW government last month recommends reducing the population of Australian brumbies from 14,000 to 3,000 through a combination of ground-based shooting, rounding up, and rehoming.
But an open letter from the Australian Academy of Sciences argues that it should be lower than 3,000 due to the degrading alpine wetlands that can't recover from drought, bushfires, and overgrazing if 3,000 more feral horses remain in the area. They worry that 3,000 horses would breed rapidly and that 1,000would need to be removed or killed every few years.
According to Nature, Australia has no native mammals with hard hooves, so that these horses could damage the delicate vegetation of the alpine park compared to soft-footed kangaroos and wallabies. More so, these horses threaten endangered and vulnerable species and their habitats.
Experts say that the draft plan gives way to a small but vocal group that has asked the government to protect these horses because of their heritage value. This leads to allowing the Australian brumbies to roam over one-third of the park.
But the state of Victoria, which shares an alpine border with NSW, released its latest management plan on November 1 that recommends culling all of the feral horses in the most delicate alpine environments and reducing their population in other areas parts of the alpine park.
The US has a similar problem, but they rely on rounding up, sterilization, and rehoming since their legislation does not approve of culling. But with the cost of keeping them is growing, the country might soon face its reckoning in the near future.
How Did Brumbies Come to Australia?
Australian brumbies are unique horses that are considered to be the epitome of the spirit of freedom by roaming through the rugged bushland and the harsh outbacks of Australia, according to the Save the Brumbies website.
These horses are the descendant of the first horses that came out on the ships from England together with the convicts and first settlers. In 1788, there were only seven of these horses that arrived. They were most likely selected for the journey because these mares and stallions were sufficiently hardy to survive the long voyage from England to Australia.
The species further evolved in the 180s through natural selection and survival of the fittest to survive the harsh weather of various parts of Australia. Its name was thought to originate from an early settler named James Brumby, which he left to free range to readily adapt to the environment of the Australian bush.
Since other breeds of horses were also left unfenced and roamed freely, they started to breed and now form the modern brumbies.
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