Mass death of wild horses in Australia heat

The bodies of many wild horses in a dried-up waterhole near Alice SpringsImage copyright

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Rangers found the horses in a dried-up waterhole in the Northern Territory

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.

WARNING: Readers may find some images in this article disturbing

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

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”.

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The animals were found in the Apwerte Uyerreme waterhole

“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.

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The region has experienced prolonged extreme heat

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.

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Media captionLocals in New South Wales are angry about the mass deaths of fish

“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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