International animal welfare organisation Four Paws has launched a second season of its birth control programme for wild horses in the Letea area of Romania’s Danube Delta.
A specialist Four Paws veterinary team tranquillised and vaccinated 22 mares and re-vaccinated a further 16 mares from the 100 animals, which were originally immunised last year.
The vets also collected 22 biological samples to evaluate post-vaccination hormone levels.
The forest of Letea where the horses live is a biosphere reserve and part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage area in the Romanian Danube Delta.
In the years prior to the Four Paws project, the increasing population of wild horses presented a growing problem for the vegetation in the area and as a result, according to Four Paws, the Romanian authorities reduced the number of animals by killing them.
After several intensive meetings, the charity said it was able to stop the killings and instead develop an action plan for the Romanian wild horses, to manage the population in a humane and sustainable way.
Recently, the Danube Delta Protected Area Administration (ARBDD) offered its support for the Four Paws project and, depending on the results, intend to use it as an example of good management for the rest of the wild horse population in the Danube Delta.
Project coordinator Robert Hengl said: “We are very pleased ARBDD has finally recognised the importance and the long-term benefits of this project.
“We are also glad to be starting a positive collaboration with the environmental organisation ‘Letea in UNESCO’, with whom we will try to find the best solutions for both the animals and the local people.”
The first phase of the project took place between October 2013 and May 2014, and involved the contraceptive vaccination and monitoring of 100 wild mares in the Letea sandbanks area.
By using this vaccine, Four Paws aimed to prevent fecundation in the hot seasons of 2014, to hopefully reduce the amount of calving in the spring of 2015.
According to a vaccination protocol developed by specialists, the mares were remotely tranquillised, passed through a clinical exam and marked on both ears with identification ear tags. The vets took biological samples for more tests, identified their age and administrated the vaccine. According to an aerial census in 2014, the Letea area is home to approximately 500 wild horses.
- To find out more about charity’s work, visit the Four Paws website.