Against drought and death. How wild horses survive by the Danube

In the Danube Delta, filled with many lakes, there is the oldest nature reserve of Romania, Letia. It has been declared a World Heritage Site and is home to a number of plant and animal species. Among them are many wild horses.

Several heat waves in the summer of 2022 caused even the wet lands of the park to dry up the large watering holes that serve the horses during the summer. All this, however, eluded park officials for a long time, but was seen by local people and tourists.

The problem is that dried up watering holes threaten the lives of the largest animals that depend on them – wild horses.

The drying up of one of the watering holes

The situation seems to have been pre-planned by the institutions as well. A decade ago, they made the controversial decision to fence off a part of the park that has many wild horses to stimulate the growth of poplar saplings, preserve the ecosystem and increase the flow of tourists. Now, however, the fence becomes an obstacle for the horses to reach the great Marhei Lake to the west.

Instead of fencing off the entire reserve, the horses and other animals are now confined and starving.

“Instead of fencing off the entire reserve, now the horses and other animals are kept in captivity and are thirsty,” a local resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Romanian edition of Free Europe.

The plight of the horses is another alarming sign of the drought in Romania, but also in other parts of Europe. Drought in the Danube Delta is a problem not only for plant and animal life, but also for tourism and river trade routes. Experts and activists warn that the situation could worsen due to climate change and that urgent action by institutions is needed.

Horses in the park

Letya’s horses

The product of centuries of interbreeding of different ancient populations, as well as animals that escaped local farms after the fall of communism, the Danube Delta horses are among the last untamed species in all of Europe.

Wild horses are the product of centuries of mixing between different ancient populations, as well as with animals that escaped from local farms after the fall of communism
Wild horses are the product of centuries of mixing between different ancient populations, as well as with animals that escaped from local farms after the fall of communism

Their overpopulation in recent years, reaching between 4,000 and 5,000 in Sulina and Chila, has prompted conservationists to warn of risks to the delta’s flora.

It is then that the decision is made to fence off the area where the horses are located and thus to protect other plant and animal species. 22 kilometers of double fencing, completed in 2014, confines the horses to an area of ​​2,800 hectares of the total 5,300 hectares that the Letya Forest covers. It is there that the two watering holes are located to allow the existence of the horses.

Horses are confined to a small area in the park
Horses are confined to a small area in the park

The watering holes are fed by underground springs. They are located near the enclosures.

The drought in Romania

The drought in Romania this year, which mostly affected the eastern parts of the country, contributed to disastrous forecasts for the yield of wheat, corn and other crops. It also put at risk the energy system, which was already affected by the war that Russia started in Ukraine.

Traffic on the river, which is of great importance to the economy of the entire country, was also hit by the low water levels. This prompted the administration to order many ships to remain in port.

In July, Romania’s eco-minister Barna Tancios warned that droughts affect nearly three-quarters of the country’s 20 million population and urged citizens to conserve water.

It was at this moment that the watering holes in Letya also dried up. However, for weeks the administration of the nature park did not react. It wasn’t until mid-August that the park issued a statement acknowledging the danger to the horses, but claiming they had no right to act because any action they took could cause “irreparable damage to the ecosystem.”

The horses that got out of bounds
The horses that got out of bounds

At the same time, the director of the park, Vjorica Bisca, said that officials intervened in the “strictly protected area”.

But according to local people, this is just a lie and they prove their claims with numerous pictures.

People save horses

Then a local mayor intervenes in the story. Antonel Pokora claims that the problem can be solved in half an hour by removing the mud and sand that stop water from flowing to the watering holes.

He said his administration has a bulldozer with which to push the water, but such actions are prohibited due to the protection of the area. He sent several requests to the management of the park, as well as to the director of the entire area in the Danube Delta, urging them to do their job. For weeks, Pokora didn’t get a response, and when one finally did, he said the administration would send someone to “analyze and solve the problem.”

The horses are looking for water all over the forest
The horses are looking for water all over the forest

No one, not even the Ottoman Empire, destroyed the ecosystem.

“No one, not even the Ottoman Empire, destroyed the ecosystem. Now Mrs. Bischa is saying that we will destroy her if we expand these two watering holes and wait for rain, which is not coming in 2019 and 2020,” says a local resident.

The story also attracted the attention of a major animal protection organization in Romania. They also send signals and alert the media. Local people send photos to Free Europe that clearly show that the park administration is not taking any action, and the watering holes have been sitting dry for weeks.

Local people are also starting a campaign to collect funds for a technique with which they can safely release water access to the reservoirs.

The manager of the entire reserve in the Danube Delta, Gabriel Marinov, did not respond to Free Europe’s calls and emails until mid-August.

Two days after the story was published, however, he went for a check-up to see the problem. Just then, the gates that lead to Lake Marhei, where the animals can access water, were also opened.

The ruler of Leteia opens the gates that lead to the lakes
The ruler of Leteia opens the gates that lead to the lakes

Just three days later, the two watering holes were freed from the mud and sand and quickly filled up. Minutes after access was restored to them, several horses went to their accustomed drinking spot.

The article is in bulgaria

Tags: drought death wild horses survive Danube

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