A university researcher has sparked a brumby rescue mission in Blue Mountains National Park after a mob of wild horses was found to be close to starvation.
Rising dam levels in Lake Burragorang isolated the brumby mob and now a rescue mission is underway with help from local brumby handlers, the Carlon family.
A National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesperson said the NPWS was removing and rehoming about 10 horses from Kedumba Valley, Blue Mountains National Park, “who were displaced from their original range due to high dam levels”.
“The horses are being removed due to their poor condition, because of lack of feed. NPWS had instigated research into the remaining horse population, being conducted by UTS (University of Technology Sydney).
“While conducting the research, the UTS researcher reported that the health of the horses was a concern. This was verified by the RSPCA and an independent equine expert.
“Five horses have already been successfully removed and rehomed, with a further five horses planned for removal and rehoming. The removal process has been supervised by the RSPCA. It is estimated there are approximately 18 horses in this population.”
Megalong Valley farmer Luke Carlon, who is contracted by Parks to do the rescue, said some of the horses were in a poor state due to the dry winter. Mr Carlon was part of the film The Man From Coxs River, which featured a previous brumby muster in the area conducted by National Parks as part of its contract with Water NSW to keep the population in check, so as not to pose a threat to Sydney’s drinking water. The horses mustered were all re-homed.
The brumbies in the Blue Mountains are nearly all descended from escaped pit ponies from old mining operations.
Russell Kilbey’s documentary The Man From Coxs River (2014), showed the Carlons at work in the rugged country. The film was screened around the country and ran for a year at Mount Vic Flicks at Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains. The film won a Heritage award.
The mustering at the moment in the Kedumba Valley is not quite as hazardous and trucks can be brought in. The mustering has been going on for the last few weeks.
The wild horses are enticed to a trapping enclosure and then have to be led out to the trucks, where they are delivered to a holding station and then re-homed. It's in the yards and when the brumbies are being led out that things start to get interesting, says Luke.
“We’ve had a few hairy moments, the brumbies try to kick you in the yard and then trying to lead you and my horse off when you’re taking them out,” he says.
The UTS researcher is from the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the UTS, which is involved in local and international wild animal research. The Centre’s director Dr Daniel Ramp confirmed a researcher was looking into the wild horse population in the Blue Mountains.