Skip to content

Hyenas and Horses Create a Conservation Problem in Namibia

How the Namibian desert became home to a herd of wild horses is still a debate. One theory is that diamond prospectors brought horses more than a century ago to since-abandoned mining fields. Another theory, says author and historian Manni Goldbeck, is that they arrived with South African soldiers, who in 1915 landed in Luderitz, a town to the south. Later the troops were bombed, Goldbeck says, scattering the horses into the Namib coastal desert, where they remained. In any case, this has been their home for over a century, and what isn’t up for debate is that they’re desperately imperiled. Their situation has prompted concern from the nearby community of Aus, a small town on the fringes of the Namib-Naukluft National Park to the north and Tsau //Khaeb National Park to the south. The horses are the lifeblood of the economy, drawing tourists who come to see them living amid inhospitable sand dunes and the barren plains of Garub. Hyenas have been responsible for scores of horse deaths, but complicating matters, the problem predator is also in danger. “In a lot of areas, like Namibia, they are vulnerable (to) extinction,” said Karl Fester, a hyena researcher at Namibian conservation group N/a’an ku sê Foundation, who estimates hyena numbers in the country have dropped from 2,000-3,000 in 1998 to less than 1,000 in 2019.