One of the many drawcards for visitors to Namibia is getting to see unique desert adapted species. These include the lions and elephants of Kunene as well as the wild horses of Aus. But, despite their amazing behavioural adaptations, these out-of-place animals find it difficult to survive during dry years.
The wild horses of Namibia are particularly vulnerable to water and grazing shortages, and have hovered on the edge of extinction on quite a few occasions.
Were it not for public concern and organisations such as the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation their hoofbeats would have fallen silent in Namibia a long time ago.
Hard times for the horses
The wild horses of Namibia have learnt to cope with water and fodder shortages which would cause severe life-threatening stress in other equines. Despite this, their numbers continue to plummet in the face of the latest drought, which has been raging since 2013.
Fodder shortages have caused the death of over 100 of these horses! The Foundation is urgently appealing to the public for donations towards lucerne and supplemental feeding for the last few survivors.
Origins of Namibia’s wild horses
The Namibian wild horses are believed to be the descendants of WWI military horses which bolted for freedom after their encampment at Kolmanskop was bombed.
They made their way into the wilderness, finding a permanent source of water at the Garub waterhole. This was originally set up as a watering point for passing steam trains, and they have remained in the area ever since.
From here, they roam the terrain between the Koichab River in the north, and westwards to the Great Escarpment but are most often seen at the waterhole.
During the mid-1980s, the horses’ habitat was included in the Namib-Naukluft Park, which led to an outcry due to them being an exotic species.
Several animals were removed to act as patrol horses in Etosha National Park or to be sold at auction. However, their wild ways were too deeply ingrained and they proved totally unsuited to domesticity.
They were later released and allowed to remain within the park due to their ties with Namibian history and their attraction to tourists.
A permanent hide has been set up at the Garub water station. This is so that tourists can watch the herds come down to drink and frolic with each other.
If you believe that you are able to assist with their upkeep during these dry days please visit the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation’s website to see how you can.