From: Reuters
Published November 10, 2007 06:17 PM

Australian state culls thousands of wild horses

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The northern Australian state of Queensland plans to slaughter 10,000 feral horses, known as brumbies, that are damaging fragile habitats in national parks.

The Courier Mail newspaper reported on Saturday the state government had instructed shooters in some areas to hide the bodies under a plan to conceal the extent of the cull.

More than 4,000 feral horses have already been shot in the popular Carnarvon National Park in central Queensland, the newspaper said, and there were plans to kill 10,000 more, citing documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws.

State Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara said shooting the horses was the most humane option.

"Feral horses are causing serious erosion, spreading weeds, destroying freshwater springs and other water courses, damaging Aboriginal cultural sites, competing with native wildlife for feed, and destroying habitat," he was quoted as saying.

McNamara said the program would ensure the feral horse population was kept at a manageable level relative to the native wildlife.

There are an estimated 100,000 feral horses in Queensland, and officials say they are destroying fragile national park ecosystems.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it has given its reluctant support to the culling plan, but says fertility control should have been used instead.

(Reporting by Victoria Thieberger; editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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