“They were starved to death,” Peeters, a horse trainer and animal advocate living in Holland, told The Dodo. “Their ribs and bones were showing. The earth was gray and dusty. Everything had been ripped off the trees. It looked like an enormous bomb had gone off.”
They were just a few of the 5,230 animals kept on the Oostvaardersplassen last winter, a 21-square-mile artificial reserve created by the Dutch government in an attempt to rewild the land. Small populations of deer, cattle and horses were introduced to the rolling acres in the 1990s, and, originally, the animals roamed freely and the park was thriving.