The uncertain future of the Namib Desert Horse

Posted by Kyro Mitchell on 21 June 2020

A rare herd of Namib Desert Horse have called the Namib Desert of Namibia home for over a century. Unfortunately, they may soon be facing a perilous future.

Current estimates put Namib Desert Horse population between 90 and 150 horses, according to Rhino Africa. The reason for the decrease in population numbers can be attributed to a number of factors.

In the 1980’s new park boundaries cut off a portion of their roaming area and then in 1990, a number of horses died due a prolonged drought. However, the biggest factor that played a role in decreasing population numbers can be attributed to hyenas, who have posed a major concern for the last 20 years, according to Biologist Telane Greyling.

Image Credit: Twitter/@hallaboutafrica

According to Greyling, ‘In 2000 they took about two foals, then it was quiet. In 2003 they started coming in again and a little more often. By the end of 2013 they were able to ambush and pull down an adult horse.’

Coming up with a solution to this predator problem has caused more issues than solutions, as the hyenas are also on the endangered spices list. Karl Fester, a hyena researcher at Namibian conservation group N/a’an ku sê Foundation, says hyena numbers have also seen a drastic decline, from 2,000-3,000 in 1998 to less than 1,000 in 2019.

In 2019 it was reported that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) had killed three hyenas who were believed to be praying on the foals after attempts to relocate the predators had failed. As you would expect, this act was seen as a controversial one by most conservationists, according to CNN.

However, the MET have since drawn up a 2020-2029 management plan for Namib horses, which included supplemental feeding and water, and predator management. Instead of killing the hyenas, they would now simply be scared off. As for the horses, they would not be removed, but in times of drought and severe predation they would be fenced off.

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