Barmah Forest’s brumby crisis has started to tear the heart out of Australia with the release of a devastating video of a mare dying, collapsing to the ground and still calling for her foal.
The post has gone viral and sparked a public backlash against Parks Victoria’s management of the brumbies.
The post is just one of many on the Barmah Brumby Preservation Group Facebook page highlighting the distressing plight of the horses that have called Barmah Forest home for the past 180 years.
BBPG president Murray Willaton said Parks Victoria was not interested in using even the most basic humanity to avert the deteriorating crisis, and horses — adults and foals — were now dead or dying in big numbers.
Mr Willaton referred to the park as a giant ‘‘animal cemetery’’ and estimated at least 100 horses had perished and been left to rot in floodwater or just off bush tracks.
It is illegal to feed them within the park boundary.
Despite rapidly increasing public pressure, Parks Victoria was continuing to stand by its current management plan of shooting the brumbies only when their body score gets below 1.5 and placing signs throughout the forest reiterating it is illegal to feed horses in the park.
Parks Victoria itself appears to be unsure of the actual number of brumbies in the park.
In the past week it has issued statements ranging from 400 to 600 (based on thermal imaging over a small area and averaging it across the park) — a figure that varies significantly from the BBPG estimate of about 180 before this tragedy struck.
‘‘The feeding of native or introduced animals is not supported under either legislation or parks regulations as this can interfere with their ability to forage on their own and creates a dependence on human intervention,’’ a Parks Victoria spokesman said.
Some members of the BBPG take matters into their own hands and feed the brumbies on private property adjacent to the park.
Mr Willaton said as distressing as the post of the mare was, it had helped highlight the current plight of the Barmah brumbies and, as a result, the group had received support from across the country and overseas.
‘‘The racing sector has jumped on board now and some leading trainers and horse owners have made donations of hay and cash; the increased media exposure has really helped,’’ Mr Willaton said.
The group has also been seeking legal advice.
‘‘We are of the belief the prevention of cruelty to animals act, which states the welfare of animals comes first, allows us to feed the brumbies,’’ Murray said.
‘‘We are not renegades who want to break the law, we just want to see an end to this callous cruelty.’’
Environmental flooding has inundated the majority of the 28500ha park and there does not appear to be an end in sight, as more flooding is forecast from rising river levels from recent rains, due to arrive in the next few weeks.
‘‘We are concerned floodwater from the Ovens and King rivers flowing into the Murray will contribute to further flooding. We need the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to turn the taps off and stop flooding the bush,’’ Mr Willaton said.