I recently had the pleasure of MC’ing a conference in Luderitz in Namibia but secretly I had a wish that I could see the wild horses of the Namib. It just so happens that many are to be found in the Namib-Naukluft Park close to Luderitz.
It’s not like the game parks that I am used to in that there is the main road to Lüderitz and the area around the highway and the towns form the Namib-Naukluft Park, the largest reserve in Africa.
The road is long, very long and there is little to catch the eye so after a while hypnosis sets in as you drive, and you stop looking around. Just after the little town of Aus and about 100 km from Luderitz we were stopped in a stop/go where some road restoration was taking place. I jumped out to stretch my legs, looked out across the horizon and there about 600 metres away was a small herd of the famous wild horses of the Namib.
I found it very exciting and whipped out the big lens and managed to get some fairly decent pictures of the horses in the distance. On the way home, I was now on the lookout and almost in the same place, imagine my surprise as we came across a small herd right next to the road.
We had been told that the current drought has been very hard on the horses and to save them locals have started feeding them. This obviously has habituated them to people but they are obviously still wild.
Standing next to this wild feral creature has stayed with me and brought about emotions I have never felt for a horse before.
No-one seems to quite know where the horses come from, but the general consensus is that they are horses left behind by the German Cavalry after the first World War or escaped horses from a large stud that used to be in the area. Genetic testing has shown that they are a mix of riding horses and cavalry horses, so this is probably the best answer as to their origin.
Most of them gathered around the Garub station where steam locomotives were refilled from a water hole. In 1977 when diesel replaced steam locomotives the pumping stopped, and several horses died of dehydration before the Consolidated Diamond Mine was petitioned to switch the pumps back on and to provide holding tanks and water.
They have now survived in the desert for over 100 years and their ability to survive is almost miraculous. In recent years the park decided they were an exotic species and they needed to go but the public outcry was so big they decided to leave them there.
In 1992 with another drought in the area they reduced the herd by 104 animals which were captured and sold but the horse faired very poorly with more than half of them dying.
They are now protected as one of the very few feral herds of horses in Africa.
I’m not quite sure why I feel that this article belongs in the Smile Good News Network but having stood next to one of the descendants of this band of survivors has touched me. I looked into the eyes of one of the stallions who had walked right up to me and looked me in the eye. In that moment I just knew that they and we would be alright.
You see no matter what happens in our country and in our world and how negative the news appears to be, we are survivors. As Africans we have often walked close to the abyss, stared down into its depths and decided no, we are not going there.
South Africa and its people will be okay. We have so much to celebrate and life goes on.