AFP, AAP, ABC NEWS (Australia)
ALICE SPRINGS – A controversial cull of up to 10,000 wild horses began in central Australia on Wednesday, in a bid to control feral animals destroying the outback.
The feral animals, which include horses, donkeys and camels, are dying in the thousands because of lack of food and water. The Central Land Council said the cull was necessary for humanitarian and environmental reasons.
The wild horses are also blamed for destroying water holes, which are vital for the local native fauna, according to the AFP.
The cull started on Wednesday near Kings Canyon, 300 kilometers southwest of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, reports ABC news. The Central Land Council has issued a public health and safety warning to keep people clear of the area.
The horses will be shot from four helicopters that will patrol the area until mid-June, reports the Australian Associated Press.
News of the cull sparked protests from horse lovers but the Central Land Council said it was a necessary move.
"Nobody wants to see suffering, especially the traditional owners of the land who love the horses but are well aware of the terrible consequences of out of control populations," said council director David Ross.
"We want to undertake an aerial cull of horses on one particular area where there are about 10,000 feral horses suffering terrible and slow deaths and destroying the country for years to come. The damage is catastrophic," said Ross according to the AFP.
Ross added that aerial culling was the most humane way of dealing with the feral animals, something that the Waler Horse Society of Australia disputes, saying: "Aerial culling has previously been shown to leave a proportion of horses suffering due to non-fatal wounding and the difficulty in killing humanely when firing from a moving vehicle.”
The wild horses are descendants of Waler horses, bred in colonial NSW and later used by the Australian Light Horse Brigade in WWI, reports the AAP.