The battle for a life in freedom - News - Gondwana Collection

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The battle for a life in freedom

Avatar of inke inke - 04. December 2015 - Discover Namibia

During dry conditions, when grazing becomes scarce, the horses basically have to ‘work’ for the quantity of nutrients they need. Then they cover vast distances, feed wherever possible and rarely play. Visits to the drinking trough are put off for as long as possible.

Fascination with the wild horses in Namibia’s south-western Namib Desert is compelling. Their origin was shrouded in mystery for decades. Their habitat, the inhospitable plains around Garub, is anything but a paradise. Nevertheless the horses have managed to adapt to the harsh conditions. Their descendants, once in the service of man, regained their freedom. They chose a life in the vastness of the desert, far away from human civilisation, following the laws of their herd. 

In more recent times they have become a tourist attraction. Every year thousands of visitors watch in awe as the horses arrive with thundering hooves and flying manes to quench their thirst at the trough at Garub. They are all the more touched when in years of drought they see emaciated tired creatures... Why? Does nobody come to the rescue?

Answers are provided by the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation which was established in 2012 to raise and strengthen awareness of the horses. The driving forces behind this initiative are biologist Dr Telané Greyling and the Gondwana Collection with managing director Mannfred Goldbeck and its partners at Klein-Aus Vista. As an advisor to the Ministry of the Environment the foundation is ready – if need be - to take gentle anticipatory action for the preservation of the wild horses.  

The wild horses have survived in their area on the fringe of the Namib for close to 100 years. They have adapted their behaviour to the meagre conditions and have developed social structures of their own. Man only provides water for them but does not interfere otherwise. There have always been periods of droughts and weaker animals did not survive. It is the principle of natural selection which helps to maintain a strong gene pool. 

However, since 2012 there has been below average rainfall in the horses’ habitat. Spotted hyenas began to prey on the wild horses and the population was reduced to a number below carrying capacity. With the numbers dropping through predation as well as a potential for increased natural drought-related mortality, particularly foal mortality, the population’s vulnerability increased. 

In September 2015 there were 170 horses of which 65 were breeding mares. Ideally a minimum of 50 mares have to survive and propagate to prevent genetic bottlenecks. The drought awareness and timely action with continuous monitoring and provision of nutritional supplements at an early enough stage will help to ensure the survival of these mares and thus a healthy wild horse population.

Funds donated and administered by the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation are presently used to set-up suitable infrastructure for the provision of nutritional supplements in the form of a protein-mineral lick. The Foundation welcomes any horse lover who wants to contribute to the survival of the wild horses. You can also support the wild horses by joining “Aktion Sonnenstern”, an initiative by Hitradio Namibia in December this year. 

More on the history, background and behaviour of the wild horses can be learnt from the wild horses’ website and the book Wild Horses of the Namib Desert by Telané Greyling, Mannfred Goldbeck and Ron Swilling (ISBN 978-99945-72-52-6), available in Namibian bookshops, at the Gondwana Travel Centre in Windhoek and the Gondwana lodges. 

Namibia Wild Horses Foundation
First National Bank of Namibia
Current Account 62246659489
Branch: Klein Windhoek (code 281479)
Swift: FIRNNANX

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