THE POPULATION AND NUMBERS ISSUE
According to most official reports done for or by the Parks, the populations of wild horses in the parks are likely to increase by between 6% and 17% per year. This follows many other scientific papers on this matter. In the 2008 management plan for Kosciuszko National Park, population growth rates are said to be closer to 8% pa.
In the analysis report of the 2014 and 2019 aerial surveys for the Australian Alps National Parks (see below), for the North Kosciuszko area (where the majority of horses are and the subject of the current cull), the annual increase in population was calculated to be 37%!! And apart from this being a ludicrous supposed increase, it is made worse by the fact that removals of horses had not been taken into account! So the estimated annual population increase would be even higher than 37%! Calculations show this would then bring the increase to AN EVEN MORE RIDICULOUS 41%!!! THIS IS MORE THAN DOUBLE THE SCIENTIFIC ACCEPTED MAXIMUM!!!
When studying papers relating to previous counts, the same discrepancy was found, in that the estimated annual population increase percentage was made without taking into account the removal of horses by the parks and in so doing, these figures, which are already (in particular the 41%) way over the normal scientific agreed maximum, would be even higher than stated in the reports. It is absolutely not likely to exceed the 17% mentioned above. And annual populaton increase rates would certainly NEVER be 41%!
Over the whole of the Alpine Parks (including Victoria region), when taking into account removal of horses from both Parks, the estimated increase in population would have to be approx. 12% from 2009 to 2014 to get from the 7,679 horses estimated in 2009 to the estimated 9,187 in 2014 and then suddenly shoot up to an increase of 26% to get to the figure of 25,318. Again a ridiculously high figure! - Mostly because of the supposed increase in the North Kosciuszko area, that is scientifically not possible!
According to the survey done in 2005 the estimated population in the Kosciuszko National Park was a total of 1710 horses. This was from a survey done by Montague Drake in 2005.Therefore, starting with the population estimate for 2005 of 1710 horses, using an increase in population of the maximum stated of 17% (also would agree with other scientific papers), but taking into account the removals by the parks the total figure of horses in the Kosciuszko National Park would be a maximum of approximately 5156 in 2019. Not over 19,000! The tables have now been altered to make them up to date, due to the new survey done in October/November 2020. Still using the 17% population increase, accounting for removals, but then also accounting for the likely loss of horses due to the fires. The count done after the bushfires of 2003 found that the population was reduced by approx 54%. I have calculated using the percentage loss of horses that has been recorded by using the results of the aerial survey reports between 2019 and 2020. This loss calculates at 35%. The more likely maximum population therefore in 2020 in the whole of the Park would be approx 4061 horses
In the area of North Kosciuszko - the area of the current cull - in 2005 the estimated population in this area was 1120 horses according to the Montague-Drake - 2005 survey. Again using the reported removals in this area and accounting for a 17% maximum increase, the calculated estimate of the number of horses in this area of the park would be 2581 in 2019! Some years there have been significant removals of horses in this area (616 in 2012). Again, the table has now been altered to include the estimated likely population currently, continuing the 17% annual increase, accounting for removals but then also accounting for the likely loss from the bushfires. The more likely maximum population therefore in 2020 in the north of the Park would be approx 1770 horses
The planned removal therefore of up to 4,000 horses, would not only remove ALL OF THE HORSES IN THIS AREA OF THE PARK, but if there are - as also reported by the locals, less than 4,000 horses in the whole park, the attempted removal of 4,000 horses would remove the whole population!!!
As we all know, rehoming of 4,000 horses in one go would absolutely never be possible and so it's perfectly clear that these horses will be either shot in the park grounds or taken to a knackery facility. This has already been happening over the last weeks!!! (some horses going to the knackery).
There had been no further survey done since the massive devastating bushfires in 2019/20. So Brumby advocates put an enormous
amount of pressure on the local government and Parks to request a new count of the remaining horses in the Parks. The request was
to do a proper 'head count' rather then using computer software to estimate population numbers. It was also requested that local
Brumby advocates be included in the process. This was completely ignored and in October/November 2020, there has been a new survey
done using exactly the same method as above, in spite of the obvious ludicrous results that were produced by the previous surveys!
The advice given by Community Advisory Panel and the Scientific Advisory Panel was that more localised counts should be done in the areas planned for removals BEFORE any horses were removed and trialling several different methods of counting and including local Brumby Advocates in the process. As far as we know this advice has also been ignored and removals have gone ahead.
There needs to be a proper 'head count' of the horses remaining in the park to establish a much more accurate count of the current numbers. This can be done using drone technology with video or aerial spotting, as has already been used. This would show to all parties proof of the actual numbers remaining in the park.
There have been annual spotting counts made by the parks using visual sight and helicopters in the Northern Kosciuszko area. Observed numbers from one of these in 2014 were 1637. This of course is VERY MUCH IN ALIGNMENT WITH THE FIGURE I HAVE GIVEN FOR THIS YEAR OF 1795. The amount of horses spotted in this area in 2019 was 3110 according to the horse count flights September 25/26th 2019. It seems therefore that more reliance should be made on these sight surveys and additional surveys using drone technology with video. Rather than computer modelling.
Once done, if at all necessary, the horse population could be controlled by some rehoming and population control. There are now new proven techniques of this and there are local horse people who are qualified to do such control. Further protection of areas of significance could be made using the suggestions of the top Wildlife Ecologist - Mr Craig Downer, who has written a paper giving specific suggestions for keeping the horses away from these areas using the Reserve Design Method. Looking at the map showing the distribution of horses, there is in any case very little 'crossover' of areas where the horses are and the 'sensitive areas'.
Full report on population surveys in the Australian Alps National Parks
Summary of calculations
Wild Horse Population Survey 2020
Summary of meetings of the CAP and SAP
The Population Ecology of Feral Horses in the Australian Alps Management Summary - Dawson 2005
Aerial Survey report Australian Alps 2009
Aerial Survey report Australian Alps 2014
Official analysis of the Aerial Surveys done in the Australian Alps in 2014 and 2019
North Kosciuszko Spotting Count 2019
The Effect of Animal Movement on Line Transect Estimates of Abundance
© Brumbies Forever 2020