Heatwaves aren’t just tough on people and crops — they can also be devastating to animals that don’t have an easy way of cooling off. This unfortunate reality reared its ugly head last week when rangers in Australia found about 40 horses dead near a dried-up watering hole. The tragic deaths came in the midst of a sweltering heatwave in South Australia, which saw temperatures rise as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit, setting a new record.
In Alice Springs, where the horses were found dead of dehydration, temperatures have remained that high at nearly 42 degrees above the January average. Rangers found the horses after being alerted to their absence by the local community. Ralph Turner, a local resident, described the scene as “carnage” after visiting the site. “I was devastated,” he told the BBC. “I’d never seen anything like it — all the bodies. I couldn’t believe something like that had happened.” The local city council has arranged a culling of the remaining horses, which were found close to death. An additional 120 feral horses, donkeys, and camels from a nearby community are also scheduled to be culled since many are dying from thirst.
Unfortunately, this probably isn’t the last we’ll see of incidents like this. Central Land Council director David Ross said in a press release, “With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them.” Indeed, according to the UN’s 2018 emissions gap report, Australia’s climate policy has not improved, and emission levels for 2030 are already projected to exceed the target.