On the Garub plains of south-western Namibia, home to the Namib wild horses, horses play, gallop across the desert and seek out grazing as they have done for the last hundred years
But all is not as it seems. The population of Namibs is on the brink of extinction and the situation is once again critical.
Since 2012 when a pack of Spotted Hyenas moved into the area and began preying on the horses, the population has plummeted from 286 to a mere 79 horses. In 2013 alone, the hyenas killed a hundred horses, fifty of them foals. Not one foal has survived over the last five years, making the youngest horse seven years old.
There was brief respite towards the end of last year. Rains had blessed the desert in May, breaking the long drought, a carpet of grass covered the desert floor and the hyenas moved off to adjacent land. The horses gained condition and the first foals were born. New life once again graced the Namib Desert.
Hope shimmered on the desert floor like gold, and it appeared that the Namibs had a chance. It wasn’t to last long, however. The hyenas returned to Garub and the brief glimmer of hope was soon extinguished.
After several years of the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation appealing to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to either manage the hyenas or grant the Foundation custodianship to move the horses to a safer home, the Ministry released a statement in December 2018 that they would relocate the hyenas. Namibia welcomed the good news. The Ministry acknowledged the value of the Namib population for tourism and as a national heritage and affirmed that it would ensure its survival.
Their attempts to bait the hyenas proved unsuccessful and they made plans to return at the beginning of the year. A month has since lapsed with no action and the hyenas are again voraciously predating on the wild horses.
All the foals born in the last few months, except for one, have been killed. The idyllic happy scene on the Garub plains has been reversed as it reverts to being a battleground where the only victims are the horses. A few of the Namib mares are still expecting. They are the very last hope.
We are now in the final hour of the wild horses’ existence on the planet. Without the chance for new life, the population is doomed. The last foal remains on the desert plains and any day could be it’s last, ending the hope of a new generation.
For the latest video on the situation of the wild horses of the Namib please click here.
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