Brumby death out­cry

Shepparton News - Country News - - NEWS - By Ge­off Adams

Barmah For­est’s brumby cri­sis has started to tear the heart out of Aus­tralia with the re­lease of a dev­as­tat­ing video of a mare dy­ing, col­laps­ing to the ground and still call­ing for her foal.

The post has gone vi­ral and sparked a pub­lic back­lash against Parks Vic­to­ria’s man­age­ment of the brumbies.

The post is just one of many on the Barmah Brumby Preser­va­tion Group Face­book page high­light­ing the dis­tress­ing plight of the horses that have called Barmah For­est home for the past 180 years.

BBPG pres­i­dent Mur­ray Wil­la­ton said Parks Vic­to­ria was not in­ter­ested in us­ing even the most ba­sic hu­man­ity to avert the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing cri­sis, and horses — adults and foals — were now dead or dy­ing in big num­bers.

Mr Wil­la­ton re­ferred to the park as a gi­ant ‘‘an­i­mal ceme­tery’’ and es­ti­mated at least 100 horses had per­ished and been left to rot in flood­wa­ter or just off bush tracks.

It is il­le­gal to feed them within the park bound­ary.

De­spite rapidly in­creas­ing pub­lic pres­sure, Parks Vic­to­ria was con­tin­u­ing to stand by its cur­rent man­age­ment plan of shoot­ing the brumbies only when their body score gets be­low 1.5 and plac­ing signs through­out the for­est re­it­er­at­ing it is il­le­gal to feed horses in the park.

Parks Vic­to­ria it­self ap­pears to be un­sure of the ac­tual num­ber of brumbies in the park.

In the past week it has is­sued state­ments rang­ing from 400 to 600 (based on ther­mal imag­ing over a small area and av­er­ag­ing it across the park) — a fig­ure that varies sig­nif­i­cantly from the BBPG es­ti­mate of about 180 be­fore this tragedy struck.

‘‘The feed­ing of na­tive or in­tro­duced an­i­mals is not sup­ported un­der ei­ther leg­is­la­tion or parks reg­u­la­tions as this can in­ter­fere with their abil­ity to for­age on their own and cre­ates a de­pen­dence on hu­man in­ter­ven­tion,’’ a Parks Vic­to­ria spokesman said.

Some mem­bers of the BBPG take mat­ters into their own hands and feed the brumbies on pri­vate prop­erty ad­ja­cent to the park.

Mr Wil­la­ton said as dis­tress­ing as the post of the mare was, it had helped high­light the cur­rent plight of the Barmah brumbies and, as a re­sult, the group had re­ceived sup­port from across the coun­try and over­seas.

‘‘The rac­ing sec­tor has jumped on board now and some lead­ing train­ers and horse own­ers have made dona­tions of hay and cash; the in­creased me­dia ex­po­sure has re­ally helped,’’ Mr Wil­la­ton said.

The group has also been seek­ing le­gal ad­vice.

‘‘We are of the be­lief the pre­ven­tion of cru­elty to an­i­mals act, which states the wel­fare of an­i­mals comes first, al­lows us to feed the brumbies,’’ Mur­ray said.

‘‘We are not rene­gades who want to break the law, we just want to see an end to this cal­lous cru­elty.’’

En­vi­ron­men­tal flood­ing has in­un­dated the ma­jor­ity of the 28 500 ha park and there does not ap­pear to be an end in sight, as more flood­ing is fore­cast from ris­ing river lev­els from re­cent rains, due to ar­rive in the next few weeks.

‘‘We are con­cerned flood­wa­ter from the Ovens and King rivers flow­ing into the Mur­ray will con­trib­ute to fur­ther flood­ing. We need the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Author­ity to turn the taps off and stop flood­ing the bush,’’ Mr Wil­la­ton said.

In bet­ter times . . . A Barmah brumby in Oc­to­ber, be­fore their sit­u­a­tion wors­ened.

Culled . . . One of the brumby mares shot in the for­est this month.

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