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Environment, Political

Flawed population counts challenged to stop brumby cull

Brumby Action Group Incorporated 2 mins read

The NSW Government recently announced plans to shoot brumbies in the Kosciuszko National Park, relying on population surveys prepared for the Australian Alps Liaison  Committee.(AALC). The current management plan allows up to 3,000 brumbies in the park, and the NSW Government claim there are between 14,000 and 23,000 brumbies  relying on reports prepared for the AALC.

The AALC co-ordinate implementation of a management program of the Australian Alpine National Park for NSW, Victoria,  ACT and participating Australian Government Department. It undertakes periodic population surveys of brumbies in the Australian Alpine National Park. Past population surveys have been prepared by Dr Stuart Cairns for the AALC.

On 23 May 2023 Independent  Biostatistician Claire Galea published a review  of the  population reports of 2014 and 2019 prepared by Stuart Cairns.  Ms Galea states in her report

"There are concerning flaws in methodology and statistical modelling of the population estimates of wild horses...and based on this analysis it is impossible to have any confidence in the population estimates provided"   and "population estimates over time are fundamentally flawed".

In other words, Biostatistician Claire Galea does not support the numbers claimed in the reports nor the current population estimates.

Brumby advocates and locals assert numbers of brumbies  are now well below  3,000, and equine expert Joanne Canning has described  the Cairns inflated numbers as "biologically impossible".

A peer review of Dr Cairn's 2019 report by St Andrews University Scotland, states the data for the population appears to exceed maximum published growth rates for the species.

Ms Galea has called for an immediate moratorium on removing or killing any brumbies  in Kosci National Park pending an independent count using different methodology. The methodology used by Stuart Cairns is based on distance modelling. Ms Galea describes the methodology as unsuitable and has resulted in flaws being carried over from past years. 

Ms Galea is a Biostatistician with over 25 years experience in military to biological. She gave evidence during the NSW Government Inquiry into kangaroo populations. At that time she was  highly critical of the distance modelling methodology used by Cairns during evidence as was Penny Sharpe, now Minister for Environment NSW.

Neither the Minister or a representative of AALC,have formally acknowledged  the flawed nature of the reports prepared for the AALC and the Minister for Environment continues to remove brumbies and send them to knackeries. She has also called for a change to the current management plan to potentially allow aerial shooting which is still in public submission stage open to the public on the website of National Parks and Wildlife Services.

Brumby advocates have welcomed Ms Galea's report claiming it vindicates their long term assertions that population counts in both Victoria and NSW are flawed and grossly exaggerated.

They are calling for a head count of brumbies in the Australian Alpine National Park using drone and camera with stakeholder involvement, and an immediate moratorium on removing any brumbies or sending them to  knackeries. 


Key Facts:

NSW Government calls for a brumby cull  despite biostatistical evidence past population counts are flawed and incorrect

About us:

Brumby Action Group Incorporated is a not for profit incorporated association the purposes of which are the preservation and conservation of wild living Brumbies. 

Contact details:

Marilyn Nuske Brumby Action Group Incorporated telephone 0400 784 754


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