By Daria Sito-Sucic
LIVNO, Bosnia (Reuters) - Wild horses galloping across rugged mountains in western Bosnia are an ever-bigger tourist attraction, but need protection from local farmers who see them as pests, activists say.
The number of horses roaming the Kruzi plateau, at the foot of the Cincar mountain, has been increasing over the past 30 years, many released into the wild by their owners has machines have replaced them in the fields.
In recent years, enterprising enthusiasts have begun organising photo-safari tours for tourists in the mountains above the town of Livno.
"The coronavirus pandemic has even boosted the arrivals, with Bosnians discovering Livno attractions due to travel restrictions," said Marin Mamuza, who in 2019 opened a tourist agency offering adventure tourism.
Mamuza, a photographer and film-maker, is lobbying local authorities to protect the horses, who fight with domestic cattle over scarce water resources and are being chased and sometimes killed by farmers whose crops they destroy.
The Livno city government approved a decision to protect the horses in 2009, but withdrew it in 2017 due to the cost of damage claims by farmers and drivers over car accidents caused when horses come down in winter to lick salt from the roads.
But the city authorities are once again considering protecting the animals, which they now see as more of an asset than a liability.
"I really think this represents a huge potential for tourism and the economy," Livno Mayor Darko Condric told Reuters, saying that the whole plateau should be put under protection.
Cattle breeder Benjamin Varupa doubts a solution can be found to reconcile conflicting interests of farmers and horses.
"There is no solution - everybody lays claims to the horses and nobody wants to take responsibility for them," Varupa said, as he used a generator to draw water for his cattle from a well. "The horses may disappear and so may we, the farmers."
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Alex Richardson)