Dr. Claudia Notzke in her research of the wild horses of the world has just returned from an adventure in the African country of Namibia. Here she met up with a another wild horse researcher and biologist Telane Greyling, who has been studying the wild horses in this country for 17 years. In her e-mail to me Claudia described her adventure in this country and described her trip as “highly successful”.
When I look at the pictures she sent of the Namib wild horses I am surprised as to how they have survived in such a harsh environment. It is also amazing that a country described as “third world” has the appreciation to recognize the horses as part of their history. Much more civilized than our current governments attitude towards our wild horses.
I have attached a brief dialoque by Dr. Notzke on the Namib horses.
“With an overall area of almost 50 000 km², the Namib-Naukluft National Park is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. A population of free-roaming horses, currently numbering 220, occupies its southeastern corner. Their presence in this area can be traced back to the chaotic events of World War I in this part of German South West Africa, when German and South African mounted troops clashed and stud farms were abandoned in 1914/15. The dispersed horses lived in a restricted diamond area, the so-called Sperrgebiet, where they were protected from hunters and horse capturers, while relying on an artificial water source, maintained for the railway. Their presence became a contentious issue in 1986, when the Sperrgebiet was incorporated into the Namib-Naukluft Park, monitored by the Directorate of Nature Conservation (which would become the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, MET, after Namibia’s independence in 1990). A group of purists within the Directorate of Nature Conservation wanted to remove the horses from the park in 1986, but this idea met with strong opposition from the public and within government. The 1990s brought times of drought with a drastic reduction of the horse population through mortality and human intervention, and the 2000s ushered in a time of plenty. But these two decades also brought about a change in perception, bolstered by scientific research. There has been a shift in thinking from the toleration of an alien species inside a national park to respect and appreciation as a unique breed, a tourist drawcard and a national treasure, which has a century-old role in Namibian history.”
“Their ancestry includes Trakehner, Hackney, Arabian and Boerperd (an old South African breed). They measure about 14 hands, as living conditions are extremely harsh. They are wonderful little horses, and almost as relaxed around humans as the Sable Island horses, though they live with predators, namely hyenas. Telane also guided the horseback safari to the Fish River Canyon. The riding horses were amazing as well – what endurance! The terrain can be extremely challenging, and there were many long fast gallops in the endless space of the desert. Quite an experience.”
Prior to her trip to Africa, Dr. Notzke had also travelled into the “Brittany Triangle” of BC to research the herds of wild horses that remain in this part of British Columbia. The herds here are quite similar to our Alberta wild horses and face many of the same dangers and attitudes.
Thank you Claudia for all your time in trying to help WHOAS protect and save the Wild Horses of Alberta.