Are feral horses of any use?
Natalia N. Spasskaya (Zoological Museum, Moscow)
The status of feral horse populations in the south of European Russia and theUkraineis discussed. During the last three years, both the number of populations and their size have declined considerably. The main reasons for this are the lack of legal protection status for populations living outside protected areas and the non-existent public attitude towards feral horses with regards them being a key component of ecosystems, in many cases an indispensable one.
The population dynamics of feral horses living on Vodny Island in Rostov Nature Reserve is also discussed in detail. Extreme weather conditions, together with most of the plant biomass having been consumed by voles, resulted in a six times reduction in the number of horses over the last three years. To sustain the population, some special support is required. This includes providing permanent access to water and supplementary feeding during critical periods and controlling numbers within the population. Such activities, however, are incompatible with the Reserve’s existing management regime in that they imply interfering with natural processes. If the Ministry of Natural Resources does not give permission for urgent rescue measures to be taken to save the population and does not allocate the necessary funding, the population of feral horses on Vodny Island will die out.
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