Canada: legendary horses 'should leave' Sable Island

Wild horses drinking water on Sable Island Image copyright National Post

A Canadian biologist has reignited a long-running debate over whether the famous wild horses that roam a remote Atlantic island should be evicted for endangering the local ecosystem.

About 400 horses wander undisturbed on Sable Island. But scientist Ian Jones of the Memorial University of Newfoundland says the horses are an "invasive species" causing desertification on the island. They eat too much of the vegetation and compacting the soil with their hooves, the National Post newspaper says. He insists they should be relocated to Canada's mainland to stop further damage to the environment.

But he faces firm opposition. Legend has it that the animals came to Sable Island centuries ago, swimming ashore after their ship was wrecked at sea. "It's a debate between this romantic idea of horses and conservationism and biology," Jones says. "But you have to differentiate between values and science." The public have opposed earlier attempts to remove the horses, even though it's more likely they were brought to the island as farm animals sometime in the 18th Century.

Other scientists also challenge his theory. Bill Freedman, a Dalhousie University biology professor, tells the National Post: "The horses have been on the island for centuries, and I believe the ecosystem is now in a steady-state condition with respect to their ecological effects."

Image copyright National Post
Image copyright National Post

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