Population dynamics of feral horses (Equus caballus) following above-average rainfall in a semi-arid environment of Australia

Kampmann, S., Hampson, B. A. and Pollitt, C. C. (2013) Population dynamics of feral horses (Equus caballus) following above-average rainfall in a semi-arid environment of Australia. Australian Veterinary Journal, 91 11: 482-487. doi:10.1111/avj.12120


Author Kampmann, S.
Hampson, B. A.
Pollitt, C. C.
Title Population dynamics of feral horses (Equus caballus) following above-average rainfall in a semi-arid environment of Australia
Formatted title
Population dynamics of feral horses (Equus caballus) following above-average rainfall in a semi-arid environment of Australia
Journal name Australian Veterinary Journal   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0005-0423
1751-0813
Publication date 2013-11
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/avj.12120
Volume 91
Issue 11
Start page 482
End page 487
Total pages 6
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background Recent record rainfall in much of semi-arid Central Australia is the most likely reason for a feral horse population increase in excess of normal. Uncontrolled numbers of feral horses have habitat degradation and animal welfare implications.
Objectives The aims of this study were to investigate the social structure of feral horses and assess their population growth rate following unseasonably high rainfall.
Methods The study area was 4000 km2 of unmanaged, semi-arid country in Central Australia (latitude 24.50°S, longitude 132.10°E). Horses were identified by descriptive features from ground searches, movement-activated cameras and ‘hides’ positioned at key water holes. Wherever possible, sex and age categories were documented. Population growth rate was estimated by the number of foals divided by the number of horses older than 1 year in the observed population.
Results A total of 1424 horses were identified and categorised, of which 335 were foals born within the current year. Only 123 juveniles were identified. Of the adult horses, 53.4% were male and 46.6% were female and this differed from parity (P = 0.04). Of the mares, 71.9% had a foal at foot and the population growth rate was 29.5%.
Conclusions With a sustained population growth rate of 29.5%, this population of feral horses will more than double within 3 years. The high population increase will likely have a detrimental effect on native fauna and flora and the fragile, semi-arid ecosystems of Central Australia. After a period of high rainfall and plentiful resources, ‘normal’ drought conditions will return and many feral horses will starve and die as they compete for limited resources.
Keyword Animal welfare
Ecology
Horses
Reproduction
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Veterinary Science Publications
 
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