Call for horse cull angers animal advocate

Glenn Cordingley and Brad ThompsonBroome Advertiser

Broome animal advocate Libby Lovegrove has reacted angrily to a call from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association for an immediate cull of wild horses at Lake Gregory between the Great Sandy and Tanami deserts in the Kimberley.

PGA president Rob Gillam said Lands Minister Brendon Grylls should order an immediate aerial cull of up to an estimated 9000 horses to avoid an economic, environmental and animal welfare catastrophe.

The Aboriginal Lands Trust has also warned the State Government that its dithering over a wild horse cull is increasing the risk of an animal welfare disaster and poses a risk to community safety.

But Kimberley Wild Horses co-ordinator Ms Lovegrove said there were alternatives to a cull, including darting mares with infertility drugs, gelding stallions and allowing horse rescue groups to remove some animals.

Ms Lovegrove accused the ALT and PGA of wildly inflating the numbers of horses on the stations and said her group would alert horse rescue groups around the world to help stop a cull.

"There have never been 9000 horses at Lake Gregory," she said.

"It's well known that numbers are inflated by the PGA to make a case for a cull, which is the most expensive and laziest way to remove horses.

"On-the-ground counts by Wild Horses Kimberley in 2010, which were thorough and took in the whole lake and surrounds, came to 500."

ALT chairman Clinton Wolf said he was fed up after four years of pleading with the Government to approve an aerial cull of thousands of horses on two trust-controlled stations in the East Kimberley.

"To put the problem into perspective, last year at Balgo 200 horses got stranded in a dam that was virtually all mud and died a horrific death," he said.

"We are talking about the possibility of that happening again times 50 if there are 10,000 horses out there."

The fate of the horses on Lake Gregory and Billiluna stations has been a hot topic for years with animal welfare groups, including Wild Horses Kimberley, opposed to a cull.

Mr Wolf said the ALT had the same legal responsibilities as other pastoral leases holders to control feral animals but not the same rights to carry out a cull because of Government red tape.

"The water in the lake is drying up and when the horses start turning up looking for water at communities where young kids are running around it is only a matter of time until there is a serious accident," he said.

"We have a massive issue on our hands. How do you make sure animals aren't suffering and dying of thirst, and how do you maintain the safety of people living out there who are traditional owners?"

Mr Wolf said the ALT had made submissions to a range of Government departments but was caught in a bureaucratic bind and still did not know who had ultimate responsibility for approving a cull.

The Department of Lands and its Pastoral Lands Board are responsible for pastoral leases while the ALT falls under the control of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Mr Grylls referred questions on the issue to the DAA, which confirmed the PLB had issued default notices against the ALT for failing to manage feral animals as required by law.

The DAA issued a statement, saying: "The ALT is working closely with a number of key stakeholders to broker and identify a resolution to this critical issue."

Mr Wolf said the leases were at risk of being revoked instead of handed back to the traditional owners as planned.

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