Feral: The bitter clash of culture over Australia's wild horses
In the magnificent high country of the Snowy Mountains, wild horses roam the land. Immortalised and celebrated in poems, books and films, these 'brumbies' are a spectacular sight, inspiring deep emotions. Not everyone subscribes to this romantic view of the history these horses are said to represent. An ugly divide is cutting through the country towns and surrounding mountains. At the centre of it is a question – are these horses a national icon or feral pests?
Ecologists and rangers have been warning that one of the nation's most precious national parks is in deep trouble with soaring horse numbers creating major damage to the protected environment, while horse activists completely reject any assertions that the brumbies are to blame and believe the brumbies, and Australia's national identity are under attack.
ANU's Professor Jamie Pittock says there's no reason why we have to destroy our natural and indigenous heritage in order to keep a few feral horses up in the mountains.
"I'm particularly worried by the feral horses, systematically eating out particular plants that are so important for the ecology of this place. One example is the common reed or phragmites that grows along the edge of the river. I've just spent five days floating down the Snowy River and the only places these reeds grow are where the horses cannot reach," he said.