Namibia's wild horses 2017

Ghosts of the desert

In 2017 I traveled to Namibia in search of a myth: Wild horses in the oldest desert in the world – the Namib. What I found wasn’t what I expected, but still changed everything. My heart enlightened, shook and in the end it shattered.

The wild horses in Namibia are a symbol of the unbroken spirit of this species, a testimony to their often underestimated strength and proof of the adaptability of these animals. They are part of the country and inevitably merged with its history. This symbol is disappearing – when I was visiting in July 2017 there were only about 116 horses left and all I could do was take photo of starving creatures. It left a scar on my heart which I will remember forever. The reasons for their extinction are numerous. Global warming that causes longlasting droughts, destructive tourism that results into overpopulation as well as immigration of some predators and government laws make it even harder to survive in the ruthless desert – and still, there they are, despite it all.

A couple of months after my visit the drought finally ended and brought long-desired rain, and with that, life itself. It took several more years for the population and environment to grow strong enough so a foal could survive. Even if the horses have survived so far, their destiny remains unkown. Will they survive the next drought? Will a generation gap of over 4 years stop reproduction? How much more can they endure?

It breaks me to think about how little we can do to keep these horses alive – and over all: Should we even? My answer to this is: Yes. Even though they only started to call the namib desert their home since the first world war, they have prooven themselves worthy of being acknowledged. In my personal opinion they have every right to be there. If they survive endless heat, freezing nights, the danger of predators – they have every right to stay.

But in the end, it’s not my decision. It’s not even theirs. All we can do is watch a legend fade into ghosts of the desert. You will hear their neighing as the sunset turns the sky lilac. You will hear their hooves when the wind swirls up the dusty sand. Even if they will disappear some day – they will forever be a part of the desert.

To learn more about the Garub Horses and how to help them, please visit Namibia Wild Horses Foundation.

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