Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Support for brumbies in Barmah

The Barmah Cattlemen’s Association will feature the brumby as a cornerstone of this year’s Barmah Muster from April 25 to 27 at the Barmah National Park Stockyards.

CATHY WALKER March 25, 2014 4:07am

Brumbies running in Barmah Forest near Buck's Sandhill. Picture: Geoff Adams.

The Barmah Cattlemen’s Association will feature the brumby as a cornerstone of this year’s Barmah Muster from April 25 to 27 at the Barmah National Park Stockyards.

But the association said it was not looking for a stoush with Parks Victoria.

Association president Brad Caldwell said the brumby had a rightful place in Australian folklore and history and deserved to be recognised.

‘‘They have been here (in the forest) for a significant amount of time and have earned the right to stay here,’’ Mr Caldwell said.

Last month, Parks Victoria — which refers to the brumby as a wild horse but each group is talking about the same beast — attracted 604 respondents to a survey that questioned whether people knew wild horses were living in Barmah forest, and what their perspective was on them.

The survey was part of a study assessing the social and heritage value of the Barmah wild horse population, and the choices for respondents of the values associated with the horses were polarising.

Do you think (tick your top 10) that the horses are ‘‘feral’’, ‘‘nuisance’’, ‘‘vermin or pest’’ or (other side of the ledger) ‘‘heritage’’, ‘‘symbolic of the region’’, ‘‘unique’’.

Mr Caldwell said the decision to feature the brumby at the muster this year was ‘‘not a big political bashing exercise’’.

‘‘We believe they should be allowed to stay there,’’ Mr Caldwell said. ‘‘They are not in any plague proportions.’’

Mr Caldwell estimated there were 130 to 150 brumbies in the national park.

Many visitors may never spot one and Mr Caldwell said the horses were expert at keeping out of sight when they sensed humans or predators.

In fulfilling Parks Victoria’s responsibilities under the National Parks Act 1975 to control exotic fauna in national parks, Parks Victoria and the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation are developing a Barmah Horse Management Strategy to remove wild horses from Barmah National Park.

Acting district manager Daniel McLaughlin said Parks Victoria was pleased with the number of responses to the survey.

‘‘Initial results show that over 90 per cent of the respondents feel strongly about the wild horses, whether in a positive or negative way,’’ he said.

Mr McLaughlin said responses showed:

The horses evoked an emotional response in many respondents.

While some people felt the horses reflected the region’s history and their presence was a valid expression of environmental change and adaptation, others believed the horses degraded the natural values of the river red gum floodplain ecosystem.

Some key values attributed to the horses included Australian spirit, freedom, tourism, history and heritage and regional symbolism.

Some key activities associated with the horses were history, education, animal welfare, horse riding, mustering and wartime.

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