Brumby rescuers plead for more horses

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Julie Pridmore with Willow, an eight-month-old orphan rescued from Barmah National Park. Willow has already been trained to lead.

Brumbies are not welcome in Barmah National Park, but adjoining the forest is a property set aside for their preservation.

For Picola resident Julie Pridmore, the sanctuary was the last hope of saving the Barmah brumbies.

If they couldn’t win the argument to keep the brumbies in the forest, then they might be able to save the bloodlines, which she said were unique and they had DNA evidence to prove that.

“We asked people for help in what we were doing and within four weeks we had raised about $86,000,” she said.

Ms Pridmore is the president of the Barmah Brumby Preservation Group and one of the managers of the leased, 40-hectare sanctuary.

The group has installed kilometres of fencing, handling yards and a solar-powered bore pump for watering. They have also rounded up and bought fodder rolls.

The preservation group is ready to take on more brumbies from the nearby forest, but Parks Victoria has been unable to deliver them.

The group aims to give some preliminary training to rescued horses, so they can be successfully re-homed.

“We can prepare them so they can be handled by people who have the knowledge to bring them to their full potential,” Ms Pridmore said.

The sanctuary has been operating since April, 2021. It has successfully re-homed three brumbies and four more are in training.

Ms Pridmore and group members were horrified to find bodies of more than 30 brumbies shot and abandoned in the forest during May. In some cases there were attempts apparently made to hide the bodies with branches and timber.

Parks Victoria will not respond to questions about whether their contracted shooters were responsible for the killing.

Group vice-president Murray Willaton believes there have been wild horses in the forest for about 180 years.

“The joint management plan says they will endeavour to re-home brumbies, but in the last 14 months their efforts have only resulted in trapping and delivering five horses,” he said.

“I think they just find it easier to shoot them.”

Mr Willaton believes Parks Victoria is rushing to complete the removal of 100 horses required under the management plant by the end of June, marking the end of the financial year.

The group could take up to 100 head a year for re-homing.

Parks Victoria would not tell Country News how many brumbies had been shot or re-homed during this financial year.

Parks Victoria was attempting to trap brumbies last week. The department won’t tell the public about the results from the program.

Invasive Species Council chief executive Andrew Cox said it was time to return the Barmah Forest to its condition before horses were introduced to the environment.

“We’ve been talking about this for years and the damage keeps growing,” he said.

Mr Cox said the re-homing strategy was unsuccessful partly because people interfered with the traps.

“There was some interest in taking horses, but the traps were tampered with.

“We’ve got to the point where they need to go.”

Home base for the Barmah Brumby Preservation Group.
A huge sign on the main road in Barmah.
Protesters on the steps of Victorian Parliament last week.