The Kaimanawa Wild Horses of New Zealand
Hidden away in a protected area in the central North Island of New Zealand, a herd of wild hoses roams. These are commonly known as the Kaimanawa Wild horses, because of their location, the nearby Kaimanawa Ranges. Not native to New Zealand, the original stock was introduced about the 1870s. Now this herd is so established that it has a government order protecting it.
Between 1858 and 1875 Major George Carylon imported Exmoor ponies into New Zealand and crossed them with local ponies, producing a breed called Carylon. These were released into the Kaimanawa area. The herd was added to over the years as horses escaped from neighboring station holds, or were deliberately released. The current animals are not genetically unique, but are a strong, hardy breed as a result of inter-breeding. At one stage good breeding stallions of Clydesdale were released into the herd. Many of the wild horses today have large white blazes and feathery feet. In 1975 two Arabian Colts were introduced into the herd and their coloring is still evident.
In the early years, there were so many wild horses in the area they became fair game for those out to make a profit. In the early 1900s the horses were captured and sold to families needing a horse for their children to ride to school, or for general farm work. They were also hunted and slaughtered, their meat being sold to pet food companies. Because of consistent capture and slaughter, by 1979 there were only 174 horses left, resulting in action taken to preserve the herd. After the 1981 Wildlife Act was introduced and the area and horses became protected, numbers rose again.
This eventually also became a problem, having an adverse effect on the environment. The area in which the Kaimanawa horses roam is a unique part of New Zealand, with one more isolated part containing at least 16 species of endangered plants. The plants became threatened by the large number of horses trampling them down. Once again government intervention was needed.
After much debate, in May 1966 the protected status was lifted and replaced with a Department of Conservation management plan. This enables an annual culling each May and June to keep horse numbers around 500. A helicopter survey ascertains the number of horses before each cull. The culled horses are sold to appropriate homes and have become very popular, because of their quiet, gentle nature.
Now, the Department of Conversation, along with the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Protection Society Inc, formed to look after the continuation and protection of the herd, look after the continuation and the welfare of the horses. At the same time, by moving the horses and centralizing them in the southern area, endangered native plants are also protected.
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