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Scores of feral horses found dead in Australian heatwave

By
Clyde Hughes
A handout photo showing dead free-roaming feral horses at a dried-up waterhole near the Santa Teresa community, in the Northern Territory, Australia Thursday. Photo by Ralph Turner/EPA-EFE
A handout photo showing dead free-roaming feral horses at a dried-up waterhole near the Santa Teresa community, in the Northern Territory, Australia Thursday. Photo by Ralph Turner/EPA-EFE

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Australian officials last week found scores of feral horses dead at a dried-up water hole in the central region of the country, punctuating the severity of the nation's extreme heatwave that continues over its summer months.

Some two dozen horse carcasses were discovered along a stretch of the empty former swimming spot called Deep Hole, near the remote Santa Teresa community, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

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Temperatures topping out over 107 degrees Fahrenheit have pounded the region for 12 straight days.

"We found all these poor horses, all perished," Arrernte artist and activity engagement officer Ralph Turner said Wednesday. "We've been having hot weather, day after day. I just couldn't believe something like that happened out here, the first time it happened like that."

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The Aborigine Central Land Council said that it culled more than 50 feral horses at Santa Teresa last week after its ranger team found 90 dead and dying horses at the nearby Apwerte Uyerreme waterhole.

"The wild horses have gone down there looking for their water which is normally there, and it's not been there, so essentially they've just had nowhere to go," Santa Teresa media mentor Rohan Smyth said in a CNN report. "[Community people are] deeply concerned about the welfare of the local wild horse population."

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Officials said that the horses and other feral animals were dying of thirst and hunger because many reliable water sources have dried up in the current heatwave. They said areas overpopulated by feral animals have suffered from erosion and vegetation loss.

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"Before a cull, it is important to get the informed consent of the traditional owners of the Aboriginal land trusts we support," Central Land Council director David Ross said in a statement.

"However in emergencies, such as last week in Ltyentye Apurte, we will go ahead without consent if necessary. With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them," Ross added.

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