Racing to save last descendants of WWI ‘waler’ brumbies


Bumbies are set to be culled in the Victorian highlands. Photo: Supplied by Donna Crebbin

The last of the heritage ‘waler’ brumbies with direct genetic links to World War I will be shot after the Australian Brumby Alliance lost its case against Parks Victoria in the Federal Court this month.

Isolated on the Bogong High Planes, the small herd of about 100 are the last direct decedents of the waler equine soldiers sent over to the Middle East during World War I as part of The Australian Inventory Forces.

The iconic brumbies have been immortalised by the legend of The Man from Snowy River poem and Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby book series.

The ABA sought an injunction 18 months ago to prevent Parks Victoria from shooting brumbies in Victoria’s Alpine National Park. The cull is part of the Victorian Government’s Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan 2018-2021 that aims to protect the environment.

Western Victorian MP Bev McArthur has called on Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to halt the cull.

“This slaughter is an act of cultural vandalism as well as animal cruelty,” she said.

In his judgement, however, Justice Michael O’Bryan said he was not convinced that the removal of the brumbies would impact the cultural heritage of the alpine region.

“I am not satisfied that the action, involving the removal of brumbies from the Bogong High Plains and the reduction in the number of brumbies in the Eastern Alps, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of the Australian Alps,” he said.

Parks Victoria is now deploying professional shooters to priority locations. They will cull at night using thermal images and noise suppressors.

Daniel McLaughlin, the Northern Victoria regional director for Parks Victoria, said the horses were overgrazing remaining vegetation following the bushfires.

“Trapping and rehoming programs that were previously implemented were put on hold, subsequently limiting the effectiveness in significantly reducing the feral horse population and environmental damage to the fragile wildlife, plants and habitats in the Victorian Alps,” he said.

State Member for Benambra Bill Tilley said tourism and heritage were an integral part of the Victorian Parks management.

“The Victorian High Country Parks need a far-ranging, broader management plan covering off on all exotic flora and fauna and for the protection of native animals, not just native vegetation,” he said.

Mr Tilley also said the battle wasn’t over yet and that he was working closely with skilled horsemen and women. They plan on removing the horses from the park to a secure freehold.

“We are doing everything we can, we are getting resourced, we are getting a posse up there, and we will do our very best to drive and save these brumbies,” he said.

Just over the border in NSW, brumbies are protected species in stark contrast to Victoria where they are considered pests.

Shooting is expected to start today.