Drought help for NSW

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE - By So­phie Bald­win

Drought con­di­tions and flood­ing caused by wa­ter spilling out of the Barmah Choke have left brumbies in Barmah Na­tional Park starv­ing, forc­ing lo­cal vol­un­teers to hand­feed them in an at­tempt to keep them alive.

Barmah res­i­dent Kaye Moor said at least 26 brumbies and foals had died since the start of No­vem­ber, while six foals were res­cued and sent to Hoof 2010, a char­ity work­ing to save and pro­mote Aus­tralian bush horses.

Mur­ray Wil­la­ton from the Barmah Brumby Preser­va­tion Group said the brumbies were suf­fer­ing.

‘‘We have been wor­ried for months and last month the horses started to col­lapse and vol­un­teers have been feed­ing them ever since,’’ Mr Wil­la­ton said.

‘‘We have called Parks (Vic­to­ria) at least 20 times for as­sis­tance and they failed to at­tend on 12 oc­ca­sions.’’

Vol­un­teers said they have had trou­ble con­tact­ing Parks Vic­to­ria on its 24-hour num­ber nu­mer­ous times af­ter find­ing brumbies in need of as­sis­tance.

Vet Ju­dith Mul­hol­land has been re­spond­ing to calls to help the brumbies in the for­est for more than 10 years and said re­cent events con­cerned her greatly.

‘‘If that an­i­mal is able to move away, even slowly, ad­min­is­ter­ing in­jec­tions (to eu­thanase the an­i­mal) would be im­pos­si­ble; the only op­tion left to the gravely in­jured an­i­mal is to suf­fer un­til Parks at­tend or break the law and shoot it my­self,’’ she said.

Car­ry­ing a firearm in a na­tional park is il­le­gal and only Parks Vic­to­ria of­fi­cers are al­lowed to put a brumby down with a gun.

Dr Mul­hol­land said a Parks Vic­to­ria of­fi­cer should be on call 24/7 or au­thor­ity must be passed on to the at­tend­ing vet.

Parks Vic­to­ria chief con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist Mark Nor­man said he un­der­stood peo­ple’s con­cerns, how­ever, reg­u­la­tions pre­vent the feed­ing of, or in­ter­fer­ence with, an­i­mals in na­tional parks.

‘‘Parks Vic­to­ria is re­spond­ing to in­ci­dences of mal­nour­ished feral horses and re­ceiv­ing ad­vice and as­sis­tance from RSPCA Vic­to­ria re­gard­ing the wel­fare of the an­i­mals,’’ Mr Nor­man said.

He said Parks Vic­to­ria was in­creas­ing pa­trols and af­ter hours staffing, as well as work­ing with a panel of lo­cal vets to as­sist in re­sponse to re­ports of mal­nour­ished horses, in­clud­ing eu­thanas­ing them ‘‘in a con­trolled man­ner and un­der strict pro­to­cols’’ fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with a vet.

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