Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ukraine's Wild Horses Under Threat of Poaching for Meat

Przewalski's horses in Ukraine

It is recently reported by scientists that a herd of Przewalski's horses in Ukraine's Chernobyl exclusion zone is under threat of poaching for their meat. Researchers say the population might be in decline because the poachers are removing them so fast the animals do not have a chance to breed. Przewalski's horses, which are native to the steppes of China and Mongolia, were introduced into the zone in the late 1990s. Scientists at Chernobyl's SSSIE Ecocenter stated that the idea to bring horses was to help in enriching the biodiversity surrounding the nuclear power station's reactor. According to Professor Tim Mousseau, a biologist from University of South Carolina, the herd he has seen during his visits has been shrinking in recent years. He further added that the people living around the area are very poor, and the supply of horse meat is desirable for them. However, Sergiy Paskevych, a researcher from Ukraine's National Academy of Science, stated that poachers only took carcasses to be sold. He further explained that a recent data showed there were thirty to forty individuals, which represented a severe decline in numbers from 65 animals in 2003. According to Paskevych himself, there may be other factors such as diseases or predation by wolves contributing to the decline besides hunting. But Igor Chizhevsky, a biologist from Chernobyl's Ecocenter, stated the threat of poaching could be affecting the horses. He confirmed that researchers had found several horses shot by poachers, and further added that it was hard to determine how many are now left. He suggested that zone should become a reserve with a research center specializing in studying nature and radio-ecological consequents of the nuclear disaster.

I'm very much shocked and appalled by this news. It very much coincides with the one about Ukraine's European bison population in it's current state. The Przewalski's horse is the only genuine wild horse left on the face of the earth. Both the bison and the wild horse are facing a bleak future as their numbers keep lowering more and more, as the human population continues to exploit their natural habitats. The reason is because the population around the Chernobyl exclusion zone is living in dire poverty, which means that exploiting the nature around them is a prime necessity for these people. Even if it means feeding on wild horse meat. I deeply believe that the people living around the exclusion zone are in a great need of help, and other than being provided with safer alternatives to basic necessities, they should be taught about the ecological importance about their land. As part of the learning procedure, they should be persuaded not to consume meat from wild horses and encouraged to help the authorities in bringing down poachers. At the same time, there should be a thorough investigation about the decline in Chernobyl's wild horse population. That is, to see what other factors, other than poaching, may be contributing to their downfall. The Przewalski's horse is the only genuine wild horse left on the face of the Earth. It is not to be confused with mustangs and other similar horses, which were all descended from the domestic stock. Without this horse, the Chernobyl ecosystem will never flourish as hoped.

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