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Severe drought and heat turns arid area in Kazakhstan into grave for horses

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Images of dead horses show the severity of a drought plaguing an area in Kazakhstan. Animals in the country's Mangistau peninsula have been left without food or water, as unusually high temperatures persist, according to the Reuters news agency.

Overall, the Mangistau province, which is home to the peninsula, has reported more than 1,000 deaths of horse, cattle and sheep, as animals have been left with nothing to graze on, Reuters reported. 

The price of hay and barley has skyrocketed during the drought. Some farmers have mixed wet cardboard with feed to add volume, according to the news agency. 

Horses are staples of the Kazakh diet, and the recent weather has left farmers and breeders with limited resources for the animals.  Kazakhstan has banned exports of animal feed and is asking neighboring countries for extra water. The government also said it is sending barley to the Mangistau region.

Still, the measures haven't been enough. 

Severe drought causing livestock starvation affects herders in Kazakh province
Carcasses of animals lie on the ground outside the village of Tushchykudyk amid severe drought in Mangistau Region, Kazakhstan July 27, 2021.  PAVEL MIKHEYEV/REUTERS

Gabidolla Kalynbayuly, who runs a horse farm in the small village of Akshymyrau, told Reuters that grazing was poor in the area for the last few years but that there was still enough grass for horses — until extreme temperatures hit this summer. Twenty of his horses died this season, and many others are malnourished. 

"When they die out there in the field, we cannot even bring them back to the village to report the death," he said. 

The drought, which began in April, is also affecting parts of Russia and Uzbekistan, according to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS). 

Aside from rising temperatures, the drought is also being caused by the Caspian Sea becoming more shallow. Environmental scientist Orynbasar Togzhanov said "the sea has not reached its old maximum water level for the last 100 years," according to Reuters. 

Severe weather is also impacting other parts of the world this summer. Wildfires are raging in Turkey and Greece, fueled by heat, and deadly floods have swept China and Europe. In the U.S., a "megadrought" made worse by climate change is draining reservoirs, fueling wildfires and heat waves, and withering one of the nation's most important agricultural economies.

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