Plan to save wild horses

The wild horses are recognised for their value to both tourism and as a means for local communities to generate income through concessions.

29 November 2019 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT





The environment ministry has released a management plan to save the feral horses living in the Namib Desert from extinction, recognising the tourism value that these horses hold for the country.

The management plan, which was recently launched at Lüderitz, aims to maintain a viable and healthy herd that would contributes to the local economy.

The Management Plan for Horses in the Namib-Naukluft Park and the Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park states that these feral horses lack the conservation status of wild animals.

However, the animals are recognised as for their value to both tourism - as part of Namibia’s cultural heritage - and as a means for local communities to generate income through concessions.

The report points out that although the horses are located in national parks, they are not wild animals and are therefore not covered by the Nature Conservation Ordinance.

This ordinance sets out principles of conservation, protection of wild animals, establishment and management of national parks, utilisation of wild animals, and provision of wildlife management planning, monitoring and research.

“The horses are therefore recognised in this plan as ‘Horses of the Namib’ (and not necessarily feral horses) because of their value for both tourism and as part of Namibia’s cultural heritage.”

The herd, which has been in existence for more than a century, was estimated at about 160 animals in the 1980s.

Because of drought and predation, the population stood at 77 animals at the end of May this year.

“In most recent years, the population has suffered from the effects of drought and predation from spotted hyenas that target the foals and weak animals.”

The report says this situation triggered a debate on the management and survival of the horses.

The management plan therefore sets out six management strategies: zonation, management and tourism development, supplementary feeding and water provision, predator management, research and monitoring; public awareness, stakeholder engagement and coordination.

“The report recognises the integrity of the population which is essential for the long-term survival of the herd. The ministry has committed to finding ways to sustainably manage conflict between the horses and hyena populations,” said the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation.

According to the Foundation this might entail patrolling the area to scare the hyenas away, or even erecting a hyena-proof fence. More road signs will also be erected to warn motorists to slow down as the horses often graze on the road verge and regularly cross the road.

The Garub area is to be zoned as a Managed Resource Use Zone, thus allowing tourism concessions as well as mitigating actions to help the horses in times of severe drought and predation threat.

“The horses are however to remain in the area and no custodianship or removal to a sanctuary will be considered.”

The ministry has also recommended continual monitoring of the horse population to ensure the carrying capacity of the Garub area is ecologically maintained. This task has been taken up by a management action group comprised of local communities and stakeholders.

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