Two feral horses from the Fisherhaven herd were killed last week when a car travelling from Kleinmond to Hermanus collided with the horses on the R43, close to the Fisherhaven turn-off, at approximately 20:00 on Monday night, 3 June.
The driver was a firefighter from Kleinmond, on his way to report for duty at the fire station in Hermanus. His official vehicle, a VW Polo, was irreparably damaged by the impact, but the driver miraculously survived and was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
“We just couldn’t believe it,” said an emotional Leanne Dryburgh, chair of the Rooisand Horse Watch. A total of four feral horses have now been killed within a nine-week period, following two earlier accidents that occurred on 29 March and 4 April respectively, one on the Middelvlei Road and the other on Farm Road in Fisherhaven. In the first accident, the mare known as Star was killed and a foal seriously injured. The second accident claimed the life of the stallion known as Streetfighter.
Last week’s victims were two stallions known as William and Diamond. (William featured on the front page of the 10 April issue of The Village NEWS, along with a report on the first two accidents, which had occurred less than a week apart.) According to Leanne, conflict between the youngsters and the older stallions in the herd had prompted Diamond and another young stallion, Slate, to move further away and establish their own territory on the upper side of Fisherhaven near Afdaksrivier.
Leanne says they had been keeping a close eye on the horses, especially since the previous accidents. “Diamond and Slate were busy settling in their new environment but would occasionally cross over the R43. We would then coax them back to a safer area under the bridge at Afdaks. The patrollers had just left on Monday evening when we heard there’d been another accident. We suspect that Diamond was being chased by William when they ran into the road.”
According to Leanne, the Rooisand Horse Watch has been working closely with the Overstrand Municipality’s (OM) Environmental Department to find solutions. “One of our first priorities has been to have the fence along the R43 mended. It is not properly maintained and is broken in places.
“We reported this to the OM and the Provincial Engineering Department [the R43 is a provincial road, not a municipal one] was called in to fix the fence a few weeks ago. But it is a big job and constant maintenance is needed to improve motorists’ safety on the R43. The danger is not only horses crossing the road, but also dogs and buck, and other wildlife that is prevalent in the area.”
Members of Rooisand Horse Watch have taken it upon themselves to tape up sections of the broken fence and to have light-reflecting bands fitted to the horses’ legs to improve visibility at night, especially in dark, unlit areas. All three accidents to date have taken place in the evening.
“This dedicated group of horse volunteers are giving so much of their time and effort,” says Leanne. “We sourced and purchased the light-reflecting bands out of our own pockets, and worked with a local vet to ensure they are fitted properly so as not to damage the tendons. Diamond was already wearing a band and more horses will be fitted soon.”
Sadly, it would appear that the speed at which the horses gallop does not necessarily provide motorists with enough time to avoid a collision. Members of the public have reacted with anger to the horse fatalities, often expressed on social media, with accusations of speeding and reckless driving. However, there is no evidence of this and motorists adhering to the 120 km/h speed limit may not be aware of the presence of the horses or the danger they pose on the road.
According to Liezl de Villiers, senior environmental manager of the OM, the official task team that was set up in 2015 comprises various role players, including Rooisand Horse Watch, the Fisherhaven Ratepayers’ Association and Ward 8 Committee. “Some of the recommendations that were suggested by the task team are a function of area management but issues such as the speed limit on the R43 are a provincial function. A coordinated effort is therefore needed to implement these recommendations,” she says.
One of the steps that has been taken by the municipality is to ensure better refuse management. “The Fisherhaven herd has been encouraged to come into the village because they have easy access to food in rubbish bins. Refuse collection now takes place early on a Monday morning, to ensure that weekenders’ refuse is removed immediately. We are also looking at updating the bylaw to stipulate that all homes and businesses in the area have to make use of wheelie bins.”
While progress is being made with the repair and maintenance of the fence, the Overstrand Traffic Department has also requested warning signs and a reduction of the speed limit on the R43. Three speed bumps have been installed in Fisherhaven – and Leanne says she hopes more will follow. “It is crucial that all the recommendations made years ago are implemented as soon as possible. These include speed-calming measures, adequate signage, improved street lighting, mirrors where there are blind spots, and cattle grids, for which we have identified four different sites.”
The good news, says Liz Light, a fellow horse patroller, is that the Fisherhaven herd has been taken over by a mature stallion, Luna, who has come over from Rooisand and is very wary of busy roads. “There are currently no challenging stallions in Fisherhaven,” she says.
However, Leanne feels it is of critical importance that the speed limit be reduced on the R43 between the Afdaksrivier and Hawston turn-offs. “Rooisand Horse Watch is working together with the municipality and other role players as best we can, but it is very frustrating that so little has been done. To lose four of these unique animals in such a short space of time is simply devastating.”
Leanne Dryburgh will present a talk, titled Free-roaming horses of the Overberg, on Saturday 15 June at 14:00 at the Windsor Hotel.