Brumby horse sanctuary undertakes fertility blocking trial

Berrigan, Australia, Feb. 11, 2015 -- The founder of an organisation that breaks-in and re-homes wild brumbies says a trial of a drug that could be used as a control measure for large populations of the horses is providing good early results.

The New England Brumby Sanctuary is working on a report to present to the National Parks and Wildlife Service later this year, on a drug that reduces the fertility of the wild horses.

Operator of the Sanctuary, Jan Carter, said the drug being trialled has never before been used in Australia, and could be administered for only a few dollars per horse.

She said a formal report will be available in a few months time, but the early signs are good.

"We've got two mobs of horses that are contented, stallions are with the mares, there's no amorous activity at all," Ms Carter said.

"There were no adverse reactions from the drugs, it's all been documented by our vets, the animals have been checked regularly, and follow up health checks are done with them."

Ms Carter suggests the drug could be successful in controlling populations in inaccessible areas of National Parks.

"The drug is not suitable where you've got huge numbers of horses," she said.

"But in inaccessible areas of the park, for instance in the Oxley Wild Rivers and Guy Fawkes River National Park, where you can not get trucks down and have a trapping and removal program going, this could be a very handy tool in gradually reducing numbers."

Ms Carter said the drug might finally enable the successful and humane management of wild horses.

"It's easy enough to yard the horses, if they intend to shoot the horses they're going to have to trap them and euthanise them that way anyway with vets in attendance," she said.

"With this, if the horses are trapped, they're darted very quickly, very easily and very cheaply, and they are identified and turned back out."

The National Parks and Wildlife Service said it's aware of the trials.

A spokesman said the technique has not been demonstrated to be a practical control measure for large wild horse populations in remote, rugged and difficult to access landscapes such as those of Guy Fawkes River National Park.

Originally published Feb. 11, 2015, by ABC News Australia

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