Feral horses in the southern Namib parks

Feral horses in the Namib

Over the past 18 months 14 endangered spotted hyaena were deliberately killed in and adjacent to the southern Namib national parks near Aus in an effort to stop them killing a population of alien feral horses. An attempt was made to feed the hyaenas (diversionary feeding – done against professional conservation advice), to prevent them killing feral horses. Ironically, other horses were killed to feed to the hyaenas to stop them killing these feral horses, thereby reinforcing the hyaena’s taste for horse meat, attracting more hyaenas and improving their reproduction. Both the feeding and killing of indigenous, endangered species in a national park goes against every conservation principle. These actions were precipitated by a small group with a narrow vested interest in keeping these feral horses in the Garub hyper-arid desert, under highly  inappropriate animal welfare conditions, for the perceived benefit of very localised tourism. The feral horses are totally mal-adapted to this harsh environment and any claims of them being “wild” are totally devoid of truth. The vested interest group grossly exaggerated the importance of these horses to tourism in Namibia and, by biased and inappropriate use of social and printed media, aroused public sentiments by creating a false dichotomy of “horses or hyaenas”. This exacerbated the conflict and placed increasing pressure on the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, precipitating inappropriate actions. The situation is explained here in detail and recommendations are made for addressing the situation.