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The Wild Horses of the Danube Delta

The other day, I turned the TV on and I accidentally found a documentary about the wild horses roaming in the Danube Delta, especially those in around the Letea forest.

I must admit, it was very interesting because it filled plenty of gaps in my own knowledge of the matter.

The wild horses have been a hot topic in the Danube Delta and the rest of the country this year. I actually don’t watch much TV and I was unaware of what was going on, but the news eventually got to my ears through my friends.

What was going on?

The whole country was enraged when authorities decided that the horses in the Danube Delta are making too much damage and that they should be put to death.

Whoah whoa! How did we get here?

Let’s go back in time for a minute

It was the year 1989 and the communist regime was finally crumbling here in Romania.

The old socialist agricultural projects were being abbandoned. The authorities didn’t have any plans to handle the numerous farms animals that were left behind, so, at least in the case of the horses, they decided to set them free.

They didn’t expect them to make it through the harsh winter, but they were wrong! The horses adapted pretty well to their new condition and actually prospered.

Back to present day

Over twenty years after their release, they’ve addapted perfetly to their environment and spread to all corners of the delta. Their younglings were born in the wilderness and, unlike their parents, they are completely wild, never having had contact with humans.

Wild Horses in the Danube DeltaThe TV5Monde documentary was great because it showed many footages of the horses in their environment, with their social construction, compeeting for females. It was beautiful.

Here’s a a scene from a German documentary:

We can’t talk here about a distinct race, but we can say that they are a special phenotype. According to the researchers, by studying these horses, there is the possibility to identify ways of transfering some of their strengths to races that lack certain capabilities.

What’s the controversy?

Well, according to some researchers, because they have no natural enemies, they’ve multiplied their numbers to a level that is no longer safe for the environment.

The Danube Delta has a pretty tight trophic chain with a fragile equilibrium. By adding the horses, a foreign species, to the mix, you destabilize the whole thing.

The center of the controversy is the Letea Forest. They go about their lives around that area throughout the year, but they move into the forest during the winter. The forest offers them shelter from the cold wind and also, food, a rare treat for that season.

The horses eat the bark of the trees there. It contains tannin, which has the same effects for them as mint tea has for people. It helps them to better handle the cold.

However, that directly affects the forest and especially the centuries old oak trees. That’s the reason why some have suggested that the horses should be removed.

The Government has taken up the idea, but put it to practice in the most horriffic way possible: send them all to the slaughter house.

Fortunately, NGO and other animal protection organzation jumped up screaming, but that didn’t save the horses in the first few shipments 🙁

What’s my stance?

I actually don’t know where I stand on this issue. For one, I love the wild horses. They’re beautiful and fit perfectly in environment of the delta.

On the other hand, I understand that they can’t really continue multiplying without affecting the rest of the delta. There are already numerous species on the brink of extinction here, so we don’t need more negavative impacts on their environment.

A project where you allow the horses to roam free, but clearly delimitate the strictly protected area where they should be kept out of with fences, and also control the population, that I think would be the most appropriate.

Wild Horses in the Danube Delta200

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