Letter: Problems with Sandy Radke’s brumby arguments

I feel compelled to offer a less than comprehensive commentary than I would wish to the letter of Sandy Radke regarding brumbies but want to contribute before the issue fades. That letter looks well constructed and introduces some points worth thinking about with references that seem official but when I look closer I find disturbing elements that will require people to really dig deep to ensure they can make up their mind with a balanced platform of facts. I am not really seeking to provide a solution to the question but just pointing out the limitations of the letter that proved disappointing once I got interested in the notion she is suggesting.

Firstly I see language designed to romanticise the issue. Those in favour of keeping the feral horses, for that is what they are, use the word brumbies. It evokes the Man from Snowy River and halcyon days for high country Europeans.  We might want to call the greatest killer of native wildlife, the feral cat, ‘moggies’ or perhaps cane toads could be ‘froggy fairies’ but let’s call them for what they are. Feral.

Sandy offers that “most of the land they now occupy, such as Long Plain, was cleared and used for cattle grazing long before being included in the National Park.  The original Snowy Hydro Scheme was built in these areas and the new plans for hydro power will soon impact again on the land. One has to ask – why the fuss?” I find this defeatist in that there is an implication that once the land has been ‘touched’ that it is not worth considering it able to be rehabilitated. In the local area the Gap to Connors beach strip at Hat Head and the Crowdy Head National Park were a mire of bitou bush and other weeds but the work of dune care groups and NPWS has ensured that native vegetation now provides an accessible and quintessentially Australian coastal strip. On a larger scale, Wooleen Station in WA is making great strides. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-24/radical-experiment-in-land-regeneration-proves-successful/5912386

Sandy quotes Dr Arian Wallach and supplies a link to Animals 24-7. I feel she ‘cherry picked’ the quote regarding cane toads for when I read the whole article I see other quotes like “Suppression or eradication of migrant populations has also triggered ecological cascades that create further harms.  The eradication of cats from offshore islands of Australia and New Zealand,”  Wallach noted,  “led to population increases of rabbits and rats,  harming native vegetation and birds.” My recent visit to NZ had me questioning this and sure enough there has only been success after success in this program, not the inferred doubt about its efficacy. Read about it here: https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/habitats/offshore-islands/ecological-restoration-of-offshore-islands/

As for the journal Animals 24-7, the Huffington Post recently looked into the editor and found him to be a “charlatan”. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/douglas-anthony-cooper/merritt-clifton-pit-bulls_b_5866176.html

This doesn’t make the story ‘wrong’ of course but a reputable journal to be quoting from? I think not. And while on references when the link to Compassionate Conservation is clicked one gets led to an abstract with a referenced document that is not able to be opened and no mention in the abstract of this issue.

Sandy questions the availability of research but it didn’t take me long to find documents that point out the damage to the environment by horses. See this for  instance: https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/51961/IPA-Feral-Horses-Risk-Assessment.pdf

She is careful to use the term  “peer reviewed” papers and in doing so insults the work put in by NPWS researchers and other government agencies whose job it is to get into the field and produce plan of management reports, for example, that also point to the damage done to the habitat by feral horses.

For me there are too many questions thrown up by her letter such that to form a clear opinion on the issue will require a lot more of my time. If this is the sort of evidence that our leaders received to make a decision on the issue then I can only imagine they felt addled and may have ended up listening to the loudest voice or making a politically expedient choice.

Graeme Carrad

South Kempsey