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Heatwave causes mass death of horses in Australia

Published: January 24, 2019 13:39:23 | Updated: January 28, 2019 12:48:26


Photo Courtesy: Ralph Turner

An extreme heatwave in Australia has led to the deaths of more than 90 wild horses in the outback, authorities say.

Rangers found dead and dying animals in a dried-up waterhole near Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, last week.

About 40 of the animals had already died from dehydration and starvation. Surviving horses were later culled.

Australia has experienced a fortnight of extreme heat that has broken dozens of records across the nation.

On Thursday, the city of Adelaide experienced its hottest ever temperature - 46.2C (115F) - eclipsing a record set in 1939, reports the BBC.

How were the horses found?

Rangers came across the horses after their absence was noted by a remote community, said local authority Central Land Council (CLC).

A local resident, Ralph Turner, also visited the site and posted photos online, describing the scene as "carnage".

"I was devastated. I'd never seen anything like it - all the bodies," he told the BBC.

"I couldn't believe something like that had happened."

Another local, Rohan Smyth, told the ABC that water was "normally there" and that the horses "just had nowhere to go".

The council said it had organised a cull of the remaining horses because they were found close to death.

They also planned to cull another 120 feral horses, donkeys and camels "dying from thirst" in a neighbouring community, said CLC director David Ross.

Temperatures in Alice Springs have exceeded 42C for almost two weeks - more than 6C above January's typical average, according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology.

The extreme weather follows a record-breaking heatwave that produced five of Australia's 10 warmest days on record.

Authorities issued health warnings urging people to stay indoors and minimise physical activity, with heightened concerns for the elderly, the chronically ill and children.

Several other wildlife species have also suffered, including reports of mass deaths of native bats in New South Wales.

Up to a million fish have also been found dead along river banks in the drought-affected state.

"With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency," Mr Ross said.

"Nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them."

Earlier this month, officials confirmed that 2018 and 2017 had been Australia's third and fourth hottest years on record respectively.

The bureau's State of the Climate 2018 report said climate change had led to an increase in extreme heat events.

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