Protecting the wild horses
Issue 2 (May 2008) Whenever the south-western Namib is hit by a drought the wild horses there are among the first animals to suffer.

 

The animals, which live in the area around Garub, 20km west of Aus in the Namib, have a tough life. Often their ribs stick out sharply because of hunger. Rainfalls are rare and unreliable, just enough to support succulents, thorny shrubs and grasses. In the droughts of 1991 and 1998 grazing became even scarcer and the weaker horses died.


The plight of the horses made headlines internationally and resulted in an expensive relief effort. It also resulted in the rekindling of an old debate: should the horses be allowed to live in the Namib at all?


Some people argued that, as an introduced species, they disrupt the indigenous plant and animal life – a glaring discrepancy from the aims of the nature reserve. But the horses have become a tourist attraction and as such generate jobs for local people.


Biologist Telané Greyling has been researching the problem. She’s found that the plant and animal life is similar in neighbouring areas to the ones where the horses graze, suggesting that the horses have no detrimental impact on the land. Following her research she’s recommended that a core population of 130 horses is supported by providing food and water in times of drought. This would secure the long term future of the herd.

 

• More information can be found at www.wild-horses-namibia.com

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