Brumbies: Feral Horses in Australia

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INTRODUCTION:
Brumbies are known as the feral horses that inhabit Australia- mostly throughout the Northern Territory, Queensland and scattered centrally in Western Australia. Some small mobs live within Victoria and New South Wales, but none as vast or dense in population. These horses influence the natural habitat in many ways- they reduce vegetation growth, cause soil erosion and impact upon other animals living within the ecosystem. They are seen as pests to national parks, and essentially, this is the reason for their culling- they cause more damage than they are worth. The only positive aspect a brumby herd will impose is that they maintain walking and driving tracks throughout state parks.
The brumby is a small stocky horse, standing at roughly 14.1 hands high, and is designed to cope with the harsh Australian environment. Each herd has different characteristics based on their individual locations, but overall, are recognisable as the wild horses of Australia.
Currently the main sources of population control for the brumby population is either culling or rehoming them through a series of steps. Within the media there has been outrages over the culling, in particular aerial shootings, which does not always provide accuracy in killing the horses nor seem to be the most humane option. There are more options available to control the ever-growing population, mainly through contraceptive methods which reduce foal numbers each year. Implementing these techniques requires careful planning but can be very effective when used, to in general, decrease herd numbers and allow the ecosystem to return to a somewhat natural state.

WHY BRUMBIES ARE AN ISSUE:
Brumbies are an issue for the natural habitat due to their invasive nature-
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...and the administration of GnRH. Although at the present point time the administration of these treatments, is not economically sustainable due to added time and cost factors it has been seen through long term studies that the use of these vaccines in the regulation of the reproductive cycles, of mares and stallions can provide a more sustainable and ethical method of control that reduces overall population of brumbies and herd sizes.
However, this approach has many challenges for which solutions have been elusive to date. Ideally, methods for contraception of wild horses should be safe and reversible, effective for several years, practical to administer and be of a reasonable cost and whilst having minimal effect on reproductive and/or harem behavior. This ensures the methods that are used to control the reproductive cycle are considered to be humane and ethical.

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