The wild horses of Petala at risk of losing habitat

Greece will become a laughing stock if it insists on constructing the Agrinion-Stratos landfill at the Monodentri-Megas Kambos-Knoutes site. The area is the habitat of the 800-1,000 wild horses of Petala, which survive without anyone’s assistance, and despite the fact that some people are working on their disappearance. Some say the horses have been there since antiquity, while others believe they were abandoned by their owners at the time of industrialization and urbanization and have since run wild. Professor Menegatos told Kathimerini that the horses are an old breed from the Pindos range. According to early 20th century accounts, locals used the horses for farm work from time to time, then left in them the mountains, or rounded up small groups of them to sell. Whatever their true origins, the horses have managed to survive until the present day, even though they are exposed to many dangers. Some people hunt them down to sell them for meat in Italy, first breaking the animals’ legs or blinding them, because the buyers won’t accept undamaged beasts. While the horses have so far been under threat of such barbarism, now it is the works of civilization, as planned by the State and the local government, that threaten them. The area where the horses roam has been chosen for the site of the Agrinion district landfill, after the usual roundabout involving one municipality’s refusing to accept it and passing it along to the one next door. Construction of the landfill on this site will mean the horses are cut off from sources of water in a place they spend about six months a year; the noise and activity will scare them away; and they may start to graze on farmland, in which case farmers will hunt them down. Yet the horses are unique, and could become a tourist attraction that would bring in economic benefits. The horses themselves and their habitat are suitable for such development. The area, part of which was destroyed by fire in 1987, was forested. Apart from horses, it was home to deer, wild pigs and eagles. If reforested, it could make a national park of 13,000 hectares. The cost of infrastructure would be minimal compared to that of many large recent projects and there are significant archaeological sites in the area, including the ancient capital of the Koino of Akarnanon, the temple of Stratios Zeus, the ancient theater of Stratos and an ancient port. In addition, the curative spring of Bartila is nearby, making the area an exceptional tourist attraction which could bring in visitors from Greece and abroad.

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