Livestock

Brumby DNA twist

By Alana Christensen

DNA testing will be used in the fight to save the Barmah brumbies, with supporters saying new analysis proves the horses are a unique breed.

The Barmah Brumbies Preservation Group has been collecting hair from dead and living brumbies for the past five years and sending it to a lab in the United States for analysis.

In correspondence published on the group’s Facebook page, the lab says the Barmah brumbies should not be confined to a smaller area.

‘‘If they kill off the stallions and reduce the grazing area, this would further ‘bottleneck’ the population genetically, they would be subject to in-breeding pressures and that would eliminate any rare genes and any variance in genes present from the population and that would not be good for the future health of the brumbies. Any genetic disorders would come to light,’’ the letter says.

BBPG’s Murray Willaton said the group was continuing to fight against a Parks Victoria plan to cull brumby numbers in Barmah National Park by 400 by 2023 and eventually completely eradicate them.

‘‘We know they’ve been there since the early 1800s but now we know we’ve got a herd of horses that you can’t find anywhere else,’’ Mr Willaton said.

The group is pushing for a population of 120 brumbies to be allowed to remain in the forest and be managed by an experienced and dedicated group.

A Parks Victoria plan released earlier this month called for the cull, saying the brumbies were grazing on Moira grass and reducing its presence in the forest.

‘‘We’ve thrown a massive amount of evidence that their assertions aren’t correct,’’ Mr Willaton said.

‘‘The brumbies play no role in the decline of Moira grass; that is due to unseasonal flows.

‘‘These brumbies have a strong heritage value, so let’s manage them.

‘‘If we eradicate them we lose them forever. There’s got to be a bit of give and take.’’

The plan to remove brumbies from Barmah has the support of Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and the Goulburn Valley Environment Group, which said it was key to protecting the forest.

Mr Willaton said the group was always open to meeting with Parks Victoria to discuss a ‘‘common sense’’ outcome and encouraged members of the public to have their say on the plan.

■Victorians are encouraged to review the draft plan and provide feedback by May 30 at: engage.vic.gov.au/barmah-strategic-action-plan