THE Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) is calling for Lands Minister Brendon Grylls to immediately initiate an aerial cull on feral horses at two pastoral leases (Lake Gregory and Billiluna) in the East Kimberley.
The call comes from PGA president Rob Gillam who said the Kimberley pastoral industry was facing an economic, environmental and animal welfare catastrophe unless there was an immediate cull on feral horses at Lake Gregory.
"The high number of feral horses, which some have estimated is as high as 9000, is impacting on the biodiversity and cultural values of the Lake Gregory wetlands through overgrazing, trampling and nutrient run-off," Mr Gillam said.
"And with the upcoming wet season there is a major risk of these horses being bogged and suffering a slow and agonising death, as was the case last year when more than 100 feral horses perished on neighbouring Balgo Downs under similar circumstances."
Aerial control of feral horses is considered by animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA to be the most humane way to deal with this issue.
"Previous decisions to initiate such controls were stopped through ministerial handballing following pressure from animal rights activists, many of whom may have never set foot on a pastoral station and seen the damage that these pests do," Mr Gillam said.
"Lake Gregory and Billiluna are active pastoral stations under the control of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and as pastoral lessees they have a legislated responsibility to control declared pests on their property.
"It is up to Mr Grylls, who is in charge of all pastoral leases, to arrange for an immediate aerial cull on the feral horses at Lake Gregory before this situation becomes uncontrollable.
"The pastoral industry, the environment, and most importantly the horses can no longer afford to suffer through continued ministerial indifference."
The PGA supports an aerial cull carried out by professional aerial platform shooters in accordance with strict conditions and monitoring as the most humane way to deal with these feral animals.
In addition the PGA is supportive of the development of a long-term management plan by the Pastoral Lands Board and the Kimberly Regional Biosecurity Group.
The PGA is concerned that any delay beyond early November will add to existing animal welfare issues with an increase in the number of foals on the ground.
A Department of Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson said the Aboriginal Lands Trust was working closely with a number of key stakeholders to broker and identify a resolution to this critical issue.
"All viable and humane options for the management of the horse population are being explored with animal welfare considerations at the forefront," the spokesperson said.