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Namib Wild Horses: the struggle for survival

Namib Wild Horses: the struggle for survival

 
     
Dec 2017

As the hoped-for Winter rains have not materialised in south-western Namibia, the plains are still a barren sandpit with little or no vegetation. The survival of the Namib horses is still very much dependent on the feed provided by the generous donations from the public. Horse numbers continue to plummet and not a single foal has survived since the onset of the drought in 2013. 

At present, only 40 mares and 70 stallions fight for survival.

Since 2014 there has been no more than 5mm of rain at any one time on the Garub plains, an amount that is insufficient to promote new grass germination or any significant growth of perennial grass. The condition of the remaining horses has fluctuated in the last 23 months, depending on the quality and palatability of the feed supplied. Nearly a quarter of the horses have deteriorated dramatically and are in poor or very poor condition, half are in mediocre condition and the rest remain in good condition. Many of the horses will not survive, but the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation (NWHF) believes that it is possible to save the core group with the continued donations from kind and open-hearted people.

The wild horses of the Namib have lived in the inhospitable plains around Garub for more than 100 years.

Unfortunately, predation by Spotted Hyenas during the years of drought has exacerbated the situation. Much of the game (such as gemsbok, springbok etc) that forms the hyena’s natural prey migrated north after the first rains of 2017 and the predation on the horses increased to an unsustainable level. When the survival of the wild horse population came into question, the foundation approached the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to find a possible solution. Various options were discussed, including the relocation of the wild horses to a ‘Wild Horse Sanctuary’ on suitable land where they would be protected from the hyenas. It, however, remains a dream and does not seem like a viable option right now as the land that is available for sale comes at a large investment of almost N$35 million, an amount that will take much effort to raise - and considerable time, which the horses may not have.

In a meeting with the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation earlier in the year, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism sanctioned the supplementary feeding of the Spotted Hyenas. This has reduced the pressure on the wild horse population enormously and the number of horses targeted per month by the hyenas, which would have already put the horses below the critical point of survival. It remains a short-term solution, however, as the wild horse population continues to drop to dangerous levels. With the situation as it is at present, it is possible that the population of wild horses could be extinct soon, unless drastic measures are urgently taken.

Wild horse in poor condition.

In the meantime, an action group, the ‘Aus-Lüderitz Tourism & Business Action Group’, has been formed by a group of concerned individuals, most of whom are directly involved in the tourism industry, to lobby for the wild horses’ survival. They have, with the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) – Lüderitz branch, also approached the ministry regarding the importance of the wild horses as a valuable national asset, a drawcard and a major tourism attraction in the area, as a plea to secure their future. They emphasise that the extinction of the wild horses will negatively impact tourism in the //Karas Region and in Namibia in general, with repercussions for everyone. Using visitor statistics, they have identified the Namib Wild Horses as one of the top ten tourist attractions in Namibia, ranking on par with the Fish River Canyon and Kolmanskop Ghost Town. The action group does not advocate the relocation of the horses (the horses, after all, have lived on the plains for over a century and do not compete with any other wildlife in the park). Rather, they recognise that there is an urgent need for Intervention at this critical time. They understand the management of the hyenas to be vital -  and the only solution to ensure the survival of the horses. This remains in the hands of MET.

Although discussions are still underway with the action group, the foundation and the ministry, every moment is crucial for the survival of the wild horses as they lose condition daily, are continually targeted by the hyenas and fight for their lives. Time is of the essence. 

Wild horse in good condition.        

Thanks are due to the staff at Klein Aus Vista, who continue to make an enormous contribution to the wild horses by distributing feed for the horses and hyenas.

Heartfelt gratitude is also extended to members of the public who continue to donate generously to the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation for feed. A big THANK YOU!

The supplementary feed is still a lifeline for the horses until the summer rains, which, as ever, we hope will reach south-western Namibia this coming season. 

All donations are welcome:
Namibia Wild Horses Foundation
First National Bank of Namibia
Current Account 62246659489
Branch: Klein Windhoek (code 281479)
Swift: FIRNNANX

For those wishing to find out more about the wild horses or to keep up to date on the situation, please visit the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation website and Facebook page: www.wild-horses-namibia.com & www.facebook.com/NamibiaWildHorses

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