SYDNEY (AFP). A controversial cull of up to 10,000 wild horses in Australia’s harsh Outback reportedly began Wednesday in a bid to control the feral animals which officials say are destroying the land.

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The Central Land Council said animals — including horses, donkeys and camels — were dying in their thousands due to a lack of food and water and a cull was necessary on humanitarian and environmental grounds as the destruction of water holes by the large animals was having an impact on native species which rely on the same drinking sources.

starving wild horses in Australian outbacks may 2013

A council spokeswoman refused to confirm to AFP that the cull had begun due to sensitivities about it. But the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said it had started and a public health and safety warning had been issued telling people to steer clear of an area about 300 kilometres (186 miles) southwest of Alice Springs.

Dead horses around an empty waterhole in Central Australia.

The animals will be shot from helicopters under a government-funded scheme expected to last until mid June. News of the cull this month sparked protests from horse lovers but the council insisted it was necessary, arguing that the horses, and camels, were suffering and dying and polluting waterholes.

Waler Horse Society of Australia Inc.

The feral horses are recognised as descendants of the Waler horses bred in colonial times in New South Wales, and later exported to the British Army in India and used by the Australian Light Horse in World War I. The Waler Horse Society of Australia has protested the aerial cull, although it agrees the population needs to be controlled. – Good Planet

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