Wild brumby cull on Curtis Island shocks residents
CURTIS Island residents have reacted with horror after Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service officers took part in a cull of the island's wild brumbies last week.
Parts of the island were closed off while the horses were shot from a helicopter, along with feral pigs and cattle.
Curtis Island residents and regular visitors who spoke to The Observer in the aftermath expressed shock and sadness at the decision to cull the animals, which they said were friendly and drew visitors to the island.
Michelle Pearce, a regular visitor to Curtis Island, said she could not believe people could be so "cold-hearted, mean-spirited and downright cruel" as to allow the cull to take place.
"They were peaceful, beautiful animals who lived freely on the island," Mrs Pearce said.
"They always let me get so close . Not at any point did I ever feel fearful or think they would ever harm me... I can't get over the horror of it."
The sentiment was echoed by Des Hart, who owns a property on the island and has been a regular visitor for decades.
Mr Hart heard the shooting last week, but was unable to confirm the horses had actually been culled until yesterday.
"They're part of the island's culture," he said.
"They're not around in huge numbers. You might see 10 or so at most in each herd, and there's only a few herds."
Mr Hart said the brumbies were believed to be descended from Waler horses used by Australian soldiers in the Boer War and World War I.
A Department of Environment and Science spokesperson confirmed the cull had taken place, and said it was part of a larger effort to protect threatened species, including the Capricorn yellow chat and flatback turtle.
Just nine of the yellow chats were left on Curtis Island in 2011, though that number had grown to 35 as of 2016.
The spokesperson said an independent study had found the brumby population was growing and had also expanded into Curtis Island's endangered ecosystems including a nationally important sand dune system.
"Feral horses also trample nests made by endangered marine turtles in the island's dunes, which causes loss of the turtle nest and hatchlings," the spokesperson said.
"QPWS carefully reviewed options to remove the feral horses from QPWS-managed land on Curtis Island.
"The control program fully complies with nationally-recognised model codes of practice, standard operating procedures and best-practice animal welfare outcomes."
The spokesperson said proper notice had been issued to residents living on properties beside QPWS land, and notifications had also been issued through the South End Progress Association and via other means.
However, almost a dozen locals who contacted The Observer in just a few hours yesterday expressed surprise that the cull had occurred.
Artist Jean Kane, who has lived on the island for decades, said a community meeting at South End a few years ago had voted against shooting the horses as a means of protecting the natural habitat.
"I just can't understand why it had to happen like this," she said.
"People go on about how they wreck the dunes; well idiots from Gladstone who come over on their weekends on their motorbikes wreck the dunes far more than the horses ever could."