The wild horses of the Namib face extinction

The last five years have been harsh for the wild horses of the Namib, with severe drought and predation by a pack of spotted hyenas, which moved into the area in 2013. Numbers have plummeted dramatically from around 300 to a mere 80 horses. The lives of the remaining horses are still in immediate danger.

According to biologist, Dr Telané Greyling, who has studied the wild horses for more than 20 years and who works closely with the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation, not a single foal has survived since 2012, making the youngest horse six-years old. “In 2013 alone, the hyenas killed about a hundred horses, fifty of them foals,” she says.
Long-awaited rainfall this year brought new hope and allowed the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation to stop feeding the horses after a long 27 months of severe drought in which the public generously donated both feed and funds to keep the horses alive. The desert transformed with the new green grass, the condition of the remaining horses improved and some of the mares conceived. To add to the newly-felt positivity, the pack of hyenas moved off onto adjacent farmland leaving the horses in peace. The first foals were born, and it began to look as if the Namib finally stood a chance.
Unfortunately, the respite was short-lived. The hyenas returned with a vengeance, killing three of the four foals born since September, once again threatening the century-old population.
The Namibia Wild Horses Foundation strongly believes that the horses are teetering on the brink of extinction. Even with the last good rains, there is no chance of survival for the foals if the hyenas are around. The hyenas already resumed targeting the adult horses. The population is already depleted, with only 33 mares remaining and the genetic integrity of the population at risk. Mannfred Goldbeck, chairman of the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation, says: “The Foundation is waiting anxiously for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to respond to our request for custodianship of the horses. We need to implement measures urgently to safeguard their future. We have been trying for several years to engage with MET, without success. The situation is now an emergency. We urge the Ministry to commit to a plan of action so that we can save the remaining population.”
The Wild Horses Foundation has been in dialogue with MET since 2015. The Ministry has been

reluctant to manage the hyenas, as it has a non-interference policy regarding the wildlife in the national parks, yet it wants the horses to remain in the Namib Naukluft Park, where without intervention their future is certainly doomed. MET is also unwilling to grant the Wild Horses Foundation custodianship of the horses, which would enable the Foundation to find suitable land elsewhere and relocate the horses to ensure their survival. This unwillingness to manage the situation or to pass on custodianship, means certain death for the population. With no action taken, the Namib population will almost certainly disappear from the planet in the very near future.
The Wild Horses Foundation desperately wants to help the horses, but their hands are tied unless MET grants them custodianship.
Over the years, the wild horses of the Namib have entered the hearts of people across the globe. Millions of dollars have been donated by thousands of people over the last three decades to provide feed for the horses to see them through the drought periods, and the Foundation has laboured to transport and deliver this feed to ensure that the horses make it through these tough times. It seems that it was to no avail, given the intransigence of MET to act in the present situation. The Ministry has a responsibility to the horses and an accountability to these benefactors, and to Namibia and its people.
The wild horses of the Namib are among the top ten tourist attractions in Namibia. They embody the wild and free spirit of the country, have been the subject of numerous documentary films and are used to promote Namibia as a popular tourist destination. They are an important part of Namibia’s history and heritage. The loss of this population will do untold damage to the brand Namibia.
If MET does not act, the world will look askance at Namibians, who let their population of wild horses die on their watch when simple solutions were readily available.
MET, the future of the wild horses is in your hands! And time is fast running out.
We are about to lose our Namibian wild horses. There is no more time to deliberate. Over the weekend, tracks and drag marks were found leading to the hyena den, a clear indication that the last foal has been taken by the hyenas. The pack will now, once again, predate on the adult horses targeting mainly the mares until not even one is left.
The clock is ticking. The situation is critical. The Namibian wild horses are on the brink of extinction.
We call on the Ministry to urgently take definitive action before the entire population is decimated!

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