WARHorses recently posted about the Abaco Island Horse a breed that became extinct in 2015. We introduced Milanne Rehor, President and Field Director of Arkwild, Inc., who has dedicated the last 26 years to saving the last few horses. When the last horse, Nunki, died, Milanne (Mim) was by her side.
It might seem that the story of the Abaco Island Horse ends with Nunki’s death, but it does not. It marks a new beginning and a new focus by Mim to return the wild horses to the Bahamian island. Mim had the foresight to arrange for DNA tissue to be collected from Nunki. Tissue now stored at a cloning facility that will one day provide the genesis of this genetically significant breed.
Mim, 73, has a B.A. from Connecticut College for Women and an M.Ed. from Boston University. She has worked as a writer and editor, as an assistant to a museum exhibit director, started a resort wear company, and managed a yacht maintenance business. Since 1992 she has worked exclusively to save the Abaco horses, without pay.
To mitigate her expenses, Mim lives on a wooden sailboat she restored herself in 1974. The boat, a Magellan 35’ sloop built in 1965 by Robert Newton & Sons in Hong Kong, is named “ALNILAM” which means “String of Pearls” in Arabic. She is currently moored in Treasure Cay, Abaco, her boat serves as both home and office.
In 2017 the Bahamian Cabinet approved the Wild horses of Abaco’s Restoration Plan (WHOA). The next bit big step is to secure the allocation of the 3800-acre conservation area previously offered by the Department of Agriculture but not yet formally endorsed by the Bahamian government.
We asked Mim about her work, a calliope of bureaucratic glad handing, fund raising, barnacle scraping, a lot of “roll up the shirt sleeves” hard farm work. Mim possesses an amazing, herculean dedication to return wild horses to this island paradise.
WH: Why do you choose to live on your boat instead of a traditional home?
MH: There’s a sense of freedom living off shore. My home is constantly moving, every minute a different view. I generate my own electricity with solar panels. I catch my own water and only occasionally carry well water from the preserve back to the boat. I try to be vegan but sometimes fail, briefly. I try to live lightly on the planet though I don’t always succeed. I feel closer to natural rhythms on my boat, not buried under noise and frantic activity.
How often do you get ashore and to the preserve?
I go to the preserve about once a week. I take a Dinghy to shore I have not owned a car for three years, so I rent one. First, I run errands, 25 miles to Marsh Harbour to pick up dog and cat food and whatever supplies are needed – nails or trash bags. I swing back to Treasure Cay stopping at a local restaurant that donates food scraps for the animals. Then I head to the preserve 10 miles away. In the past I made the 70-mile round trip on a 100cc motorcycle modified with a rack to carry everything.
What projects are you working on to prepare the preserve for the eventual return of horses?
There are only a few things we can do until the preserve is officially sanctioned by the government. We provide a foster home for unwanted dogs and cats and tend to their needs. Maintain necessities – hauling water from the well a quarter mile away and keeping the foliage in check. Once the preserve is formalized, our continued fund raising will go toward hiring full time staff so we can implement the restoration plan at full speed.
We are relishing one recent check off from our lengthy to do list. Just last month, we finally got our old tractor, “Messy”, running after 4 years sitting dead in a field. With a new battery and a couple hours tinkering with the engine, she ran just fine. Now we need new rims and tires so she can actually move.
What drives your dedication to these horses?
I grew up on the South Shore of Long Island, NY. I always loved horses but when we moved to the shore I transferred that passion to boats. I came to the Bahamas in 1992 and learned about the desperate situation of the last remaining Abacos. Philosophically and spiritually their plight was a natural fit – an island paradise with wild horses who needed help.
When you’re at the preserve, how does the absence of horses make you feel?
Miserable, I often leave in tears. There are so many unknowns and pending edicts, I would hold up better if I knew the preserve was officially sanctified by the government. I know our officials are in a tight spot when most of the indigenous people struggle, it’s hard to convince a hungry person of the benefit of this preserve.
What keeps you going? What is your vision for the Preserve?
I have to do this, if I don’t keep working at this, so far, there is no one else to take up the cause. The preserve is not just about the horses, but their ability to help people. The preserve should be a place of peace, quiet – magic. A place where technologies from solar power to composting toilets can point the way to a future that is easier on the planet. The human mental and physical health-giving effects of being in and with nature, with no dominance issues, have been proven. The preserve can be, should be a living continuum of meditation.
Mim is wholly dedicated to the establishment of the preserve and return of the Abaco Island Horses. Her journey is like a novel of interwoven themes – preserving nature, government bureaucracy, engaging others, cutting edge science, raising money, hard work, death and life. There is no end to Mim’s story, only milestones; achievements to celebrate then more work to be done.
Every day we WARHorses face challenges, big and small–replacing a broken fence board or facing down that first ride after a tough fall. Mim has embarked on a particularly difficult, multifaceted challenge that would be daunting for the hardiest soul. Her story is fascinating, her dedication admirable. WARHorses will continue to follow Mim on her journey with updates in new posts every few months. Our hope is to stand with Mim on the beach one day and witness the return of the Wild Abaco Horse on Abaco Island.
Photography Courtesy: Milanne Rehor, ArkWild
The Last Plea to Save Nunki
How You Can Help
CONTRIBUTE via GO FUND ME nearly $1000 has been raised but there is an immediate need to raise $5000.
PURCHASE AN ITEM from the Abaco Wild Horse Shop.
FOLLOW ON FACEBOOK where Mim regular posts updates and progress made at the preserve and shares photos of the horses.
ArkWild is a 501 (c) (3) and your U.S. contribution is tax deductible.
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