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Since 2013, Namibia’s wild horse population has plummeted from 286 to just 77 horses. In 2013 alone, hyenas killed a hundred horses, fifty of them foals.

The urgency of the matter surfaced again in 2018 when the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation (NWHF) sought government help to protect five foals born in May that year. Months passed. Then two attempts to bait the hyenas proved unsuccessful as “the hyenas appear to be sensitive and run from capture operators and instruments,” MET Minister Shifeta Pohamba stated.

The operation was stalled again over December and January as staff had gone on holiday, Muyunda says.

Only now, when the horses are on the edge of extinction is the government acting. Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, says three hyenas have been euthanized and the remainder will be moved: “to another part of the [Namib-Naukluft] Park, further from the horses.”

The delays have been fatal; almost all foals born after the rains, were killed. In the past year alone, more than 20 foals have been lost. And in the last five years, not one foal has survived, Christine Wulff-Swiegers from the NWHF says.“There might be about one or two pregnant mares still, but that is about it.”

The odds are against two remaining foals, born in mid-February 2019. One of these foals has already been attacked and is struggling with its injuries. “It is still uncertain if it will survive,” Wulff-Swiegers says. “The foal has a serious gash to its belly, but it looks like the wounds are improving.”

For years, the NWHF has appealed to MET to either manage the hyenas or grant the Foundation custodianship over the horses. MET has refused, saying the custodianship of the horses must remain in its care as they are a national heritage and it is the ministry’s responsibility to take care of them. Considering the dwindling numbers and zero survival rate of foals, it’s clear they’ve not honoured this responsibility up to now.

And the last window of opportunity is closing fast. “If the predation continues, Namibia’s wild horse population doesn’t stand a chance,” Wulff-Swiegers says. The youngest mare is already eight years old and in eight more years, she will be past her breeding age.

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