The future of Victoria’s brumbies continues to cause tension, with 100 protesters marching on Victoria’s Parliament House to protest a plan to control the animals.
A Parks Victoria draft plan has suggested removing all horses from the Bogong High Plains and Barmah National Park, and at least 400 each year from the larger population in the eastern section of the Alpine National Park.
Conservationists claim the brumbies cause damage to the local environments, yet brumby advocates have called for a greater focus on fertility control and other population control methods rather than removal for the ‘‘iconic and historic’’ horses.
Parks Victoria’s Protection of the Alpine National Park — Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan said horses were causing damage to the alpine areas.
‘‘This includes the destruction of habitat critical to many threatened plant and animal species, damage to waterways, degradation of fragile vegetation and soil disturbance that results in erosion or compaction,’’ it read.
During recent years, small numbers of horses have been removed from the Victorian Alps in co-operation with horse interest groups.
Yet Victorian Brumby Association president Colleen O’Brien has slammed the plan, labelling it ‘‘narrow’’ and ‘‘very shoddy’’.
She said while there was support for population controls, she did not agree with removing all brumbies.
‘‘There’s better ways of doing it,’’ she said.
‘‘We do support the management and removal of some brumbies and the fertility control of some, but there’s a very small population at Bogong and the plan is to move every single one of them simply because they can.
‘‘We just don’t think that’s good enough.’’
Australian Brumby Alliance president Jill Pickering echoed Mrs O’Brien’s sentiments.
She said evidence of damage in the Bogong High Plains included in the report showed deer tracks, not horses tracks.
‘‘You could drive 60 trucks through it (the report), the info is so shoddy and amateur — it’s atrocious,’’ she said.
‘‘The number of deer to number of horses (in the Victorian Alps) is about 320 deer to one brumby. Parks (Victoria) in their assessment have done nothing to refer to deer ... there is absolutely no science behind that at all.’’
The plan will also affect brumbies living in the Barmah National Park.
‘‘This decision will have an impact because (Parks Victoria) were able to say even one horse is not acceptable,’’ Ms Pickering said.
‘‘At the moment, the argument in Barmah is they’re eating moira grass. It’s been proven the disappearing grass has virtually nothing to do with horses, it’s the flooding regime.’’
Victorian National Parks Association’s Phil Ingamells said action on the brumbies was long overdue.
‘‘Extensive scientific studies show that horses damage the many peat beds and wetlands that should be feeding clear water into our rivers and streams all year long. They also threaten a number of rare alpine plants and animals,’’ he said.
‘‘The damage horses do to the High Country has been well known since the 1940s and action was taken back then before the area was made a national park. So it is disappointing that horse numbers have rebounded and continue to damage our magnificent alpine region.’’
The plan is open for public consultation until February 16.