The Namibs’ existence hangs in the balance

Tough drought conditions and hyena predation have taken a drastic toll on the wild horses and their numbers have dropped tragically from 286 to 76 over the last few years.  Sadly, since 2012 and up until late February, none of the foals have survived and the youngest mare is now 8 years old.  Yet could there be the slimmest chance that the wild horses can come back from the brink of extinction? Hope now rests with February’s newborn foal,  a little filly, just a couple of months old ……..

But let me pick up the story where i left off in the previous post!

As the horses drew closer to the water trough it appeared to us there was raucous delight in their greetings, upbeat nickering and neighing.   From a distance we could hear the thrum of galloping and watched in awe as a group of bachelor stallions came roaring in, stirring up dust clouds and arriving in a swirl of energy.

The scene was filled with their dynamic presence.  After slaking their thirst, it was time to sandbathe and attend to additional dietary needs by feeding on nutrient-rich dried manure.  Coprophagy is a natural behaviour and an energy-efficient way of deriving nutrients.  The Wild Horses’ manure contains almost three times more fat than the area’s dry grass (Stipagrostis obtusa) and almost twice as much protein (6.1 instead of 3.1%).*

Coprophagy manure adds nutrients to a sparse diet.

To give a contrasting glimpse at the hardships and the tough conditions which the Wild Namibs endure at the edge of the Namib-Nauklauft desert, here are a couple of shots taken in 2017.   Drought seared the land and the animals were so pitifully emaciated, but for the dedicated work undertaken by the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation, it is doubtful whether they would survive.   Through the years the foundation has raised finances to provide supplementary feed for the horses as well as pursuing with dogged determination negotiations with the Namibian MET (Ministry of Environment and Tourism) in saving the herd from extinction.

Further details in my next post will reveal “Zohra, the Little Foal”.  Keep a lookout it’s coming soon!  Below is a link to the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation and the critical work which they undertake.

 

* More information can  be found here.

 

The Wild Horses of the Namib

Dawn crept in across the desert plain catching the gossamer dust clouds in a golden light.  The spellbinding scene cast a sense of elation as the wild horses drew closer.   We were at the Garub viewing terrace following their trail in anxious anticipation as they neared the borehole water site.  We’d heard that they were in reasonable shape after low rainfall had resuscitated the grass and foraging opportunities had improved.  Small family groups kept together, and we could make out the figures of two small foals.   Lone stallions came from different directions keeping a distance from the small herds.

They are recognised as a separate breed, the “Namibs” after 100 or so years of their blood lines merging through natural selection across the generations.   Elegant and long-limbed, they’re handsome creatures.  Living free on the plains of the eastern edge of the Namib-Nauklauft desert, has it’s challenges.  Their story of survival in this unforgiving environment is one that evokes awe, but are the odds stacked against them as their numbers dwindle and predation by the spotted hyaena is a continued threat?

To be continued …..