New Zealanders have a rare opportunity to learn more about wild horses and related species and their place in the world with the visit of eminent wildlife ecologist Craig Downer.
Downer, an authority on wild horses, is speaking in Nelson on Tuesday night about the surviving members of the mammalian order Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulates), which includes horses, tapirs, and rhinoceroses.
In their natural habitats, all perissodactyls play a major role in the formation of healthy soils, by contributing humus through their droppings. They occupy many diverse ecosystems in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, ranging from tropical forests to savannahs to semi-arid and arid deserts.
Areas where these animals have been re-introduced have resulted in significant restoration and enhancement of ecosystems. For example, horses have recently been reintroduced to restore degraded ecosystems in Spain, Romania, England, and Russia – in the latter in order to stave off the deleterious effects of accelerating global warming by creating tundra grasslands.
“With the serious decline and disappearance of species from all three extant perissodactyl families in the world today, it is of vital importance that we do all within our power to restore these mammals in many places throughout the world,” said Downer, who is a fourth-generation Nevadan and descendant of the state’s early pioneers.
As highly mobile, one-stomach, post-gastric-fermenting herbivores, perissodactyls play a vital role in many diverse ecological processes and should be regarded as a counter-balance to many ruminant species whose promotion by humanity has led to an imbalance in many of the world’s ecosystems.
Perissodactyl feces contribute to water retention in soils and serve to build watershed capacity. And they also relate to the level of soil nutrients that become available to producer plants and, through these plants, to consumer animals.
In his presentation, Downer will show where geographical regions and ecosystems would benefit most when members of the tapir, horse, and rhinoceros families contribute as mutualist symbionts and ecological restorers. Practical ways of protecting, preserving and restoring these animals are described.
Downer’s speech “The World’s Endangered Species Today Present a Crisis of Conscience for Humanity” is a plea for humanity to face up to this crisis and make fundamental changes.
A slideshow of “Wild Perissodactyls: Restoring The Restorers of Ecological Balance” covers the many contributions that members of the tapir, rhino and horse families make to ecosystems, while signaling the threatened and endangered status of almost all of the remaining 17 species and the reasons for this. Downer has studied and helped conserve the endangered Mountain, or Andean Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque) and both the wild horses and the wild burros of North America for decades, and will present original observations and his scientific discoveries and the chief findings of other ecologists and conservationists.
A further presentation “Wild Horses and Burros: Wonderful Restorers” reveals many of the positive contributions that naturally living equines make to ecosystems. It proves their positive contributions to ecosystems and summarizes the facts and concepts that need to be recognized in order to gain a just overview of these important and evolutionarily deeply rooted presences in the North American life community.
Downer’s work studying the Perissodactyls of the world including the endangered Andean/Mountain Tapir and America’s wild horses and wild burros has been a life-long mission. He has written countless papers and articles on wild horses and the mountain tapir, and is also the author of The Wild Horse Conspiracy, about the plight of North America’s mustangs. Downed is also President of Andean Tapir Fund/Wild Horse and Burro Fund.
Downer’s presentation is at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (0800 422 733) 322 Hardy Street, A Block – Room A 211, from 7.30pm to 9pm. (Parking in the street unless permits obtained for on campus parking). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is https://thewildhorseconspiracy.org/.