Environment ministry comes out in defense of the Namib’s wild horses
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism, this week officially took a stand to protect the wild horses of the Namib Desert from further predation by spotted hyaenas.
This came after grim images of the only surviving foal, with its flank torn open, drew the ire of conservationists across Namibia.
Earlier this year the Namib Wild Horse Foundation accused the ministry of inaction, arguing that if the current mortality rate continues, 2019 will be the very last year for all the wild horses.
The ministry countered these allegations by stating that two attempts were made to relocate the hyaenas but the animals proved wary. Not a single hyaena was caught.
“I gave a directive that the hyaenas in the area should be captured and translocated elsewhere to prevent further predation of the foals. To this effect, two attempts were made between November and December to capture the hyaenas with little success. The hyaenas appeared to be sensitive and run from capture operators and instruments,” stated the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Hon Pohamba Shifeta, in an official response released on Wednesday.
The Namib Wild Horses are a population of feral horses that have survived for more than a century on the Garub plains just inside the border of the Sperrgebiet National Park, on the road between Aus and Lüderitz. They are sustained by water from a borehole at Garub but in all other respects, they have to fend, and have fended, for themselves, even through the crippling droughts in 1933, 1978, 1998, and more recently over the period 2013 to 2016. Thirty years ago there were about 300 horses, reduced to a remnant of less than 80 individuals since 2013 after spotted hyaenas, historically found only some 300 km further north, migrated into the area.
They are a popular tourist attraction drawing thousands of visitors every year.
The minister said his ministry has developed a specific Wild Horse Action Plan which makes provision for, amongst others, predator management and supplementary feeding when natural grazing is poor or lacking.
The minister has directed the park’s conservation officers to ensure that the hyaenas are removed from the Garub area. “We have so far put down three hyaenas including an adult female which is believed to have been the main cause of foal mortality,” he stated.
“We are hopeful that the interventions we are putting in place will give the horses a relief for their population to recover. I am aware of the various interests regarding the horses and therefore call upon interested parties to join hands with the ministry in assisting to address the wild horses’ situation, provided that such assistance is done in accordance with the policies and laws of our country,” stated the minister.