Thursday, January 06, 2011

Feral horse survival under changing environmental conditions

Australia´s recent heavy rain presents an opportunity to examine how feral horses are affected by the weather.
Magdalena Zabek has been working with the Australian Brumby Research Unit (ABRU), keeping a photographic record of their work. Now she is looking to complete a study of her own into the effect of a period of plentiful rainfall on the feral horses of central Australia (“brumbies”) following nine years of severe drought.
Currently the brumby population is estimated to grow at around 20% annually. It seems likely that the foaling rate in 2011 will be higher, due to the more favourable conditions during the 2010 breeding season.
In the ABRU December 2010 newsletter, she writes: "Information from this study will provide valuable information about fluctuations in numbers of feral horses due to the changes in availability of food and water, which is crucial knowledge when implementing population control methods. The study will also contribute to the development of better welfare outcomes for feral horses."
"The sudden increase in numbers will have an enormous impact on the feral population when the favourable climatic conditions change because the fragile semi-arid ecosystem is not able to meet the food and water requirements of feral animals during periods of less favourable conditions. When resources become scarce due to drought, the feral horses are forced to travel ever increasing distances to obtain adequate food and water, and, as a result, may die."
The findings of the study should help direct strategies used to manage feral horses, and hopefully reduce suffering and death during periods of drought.

Read more in the ABRU December 2010 newsletter.
For more information about Magdalena´s art work see:

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