WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGES
The devastating toll of an extreme heatwave creeping across Australia has been laid bare in grisly pictures of a heartbreaking discovery in the Red Centre.
The photographs show the bodies of dozens of brumbies that were found by a dry waterhole at Deep Hole, about 20km northeast of Santa Teresa in the Northern Territory last week, news.com.au reports.
Arrernte artist and activity engagement officer Ralph Turner stumbled across the horrific scenes and his pictures show masses of dried up and partially decomposing carcasses strewn across the bone dry waterhole.
"Not only was Deep Hole completely dry with barely any signs of recent mud but revealed a horrific mass grave of wild horses stretching for around 100 metres," Santa Teresa media mentor Rohan Smyth wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
"The horses are believed to have entered Deep Hole to drink from the reservoir which has not been known to completely dry up."
It is understood that about 40 dead horses were discovered and rangers have had to put dozens more out of their misery.
In his post, Smyth wrote that he believes the wild horses died due to dehydration and holds concerns for the remaining brumby population.
"Many community members are now deeply concerned about the welfare of the local wild horse population," he wrote.
He added that there were also concerns from locals about the horse carcasses contaminating the waterways.
According to the ABC, rangers shot 55 struggling animals dead, just a day after dozens of others were found dead at the waterhole.
NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources wildlife use and pest animals manager Tim Clancy told ABC wild horses are feral animals which cause significant environmental damage in Central Australia — but locals in Santa Teresa have a rich connection with the introduced species.
"They're a pest, they're also a resource for some people and they're also valued culturally," Clancy said.
"It's complicated. There's no magic bullet solution. It's not good to get to this stage, the animals have obviously gone through a lot of distress."
Like large parts of Australia, the Red Centre which covers a huge outback area in central Australia, centred around Alice Springs, has been sweltering in the grip of a blistering heatwave.
The Bureau of Meteorology tipped Alice Springs to reach 43C today.
Elsewhere, Adelaide's mercury has reached a record high of 46.2C, toppling a heat record from 1939.
The Bureau of Meteorology reports that West Terrace recorded the highest temperature in 80 years at 1.42pm