Wild horse species are returning to the Kazakh steppes

4 Min Read

In this photo taken in June 2011, a Przewalski’s horse mare (right) and a stallion browse after being released into the Khomiin Tal Reserve in western Mongolia. | Photo credit: Petr David Josek/AP

Taking a few hesitant steps after a long flight from Prague, three Przewalski’s horses galloped into the Kazakh steppe for the first time – the native habitat of this endangered species.

The horses emerged after being locked in containers for 20 hours and are the first of 40 horses to be released into the wild in this vast Central Asian country over the next five years.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a very long time,” Albert Salemgareyev of the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan told AFP.

“A lot of work has been done in recent months to bring the Przewalski horses to Kazakhstan.”

The Prague and Berlin Zoo project aims to conserve this species of sturdy-built horses with large heads that share a common ancestry with modern domestic horses but are genetically distinct.

Przewalski’s horses are commonly referred to as one of the world’s last wild horse breeds.

“We know that the Przewalski horses are suitable for this steppe,” Mr Salemgareyev said.

The horses can withstand harsh winters such as those in Kazakhstan, where temperatures can drop below minus 30 degrees Celsius and food is scarce.

The first three copies – Zorro, Ypsilonka and Zeta II – arrived earlier this month. Four others landed in Kazakhstan from Berlin on Thursday morning and were released in the afternoon.

They will initially be observed in the Golden Steppe Nature Reserve before being released into the wild.

See also  'Wow': Why two Saskatoon high school students are getting national recognition

“This year we will monitor their health and see how they acclimatize,” Salemgareyev said.

The 5,000 kilometers, first by plane to the city of Arqalyk and then by truck over bumpy roads to the heart of the steppe, was not without risks.

Despite expert supervision, one of the horses sat in its container before leaving, increasing the risk of blood flow to its legs being cut off.

“The journey could have been dangerous, so we decided to leave him alone,” said Miroslav Bobek, director of the Prague Zoo.

There are now 2,000 Przewalski’s horses around the world, mainly in China and Mongolia, but also in France, Russia and even in the wild in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone between Belarus and Ukraine.

After the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986, 30 units were introduced there in 1998. The population has flourished and now stands at 210.

In Kazakhstan, the Przewalski’s horse is not the only endangered species that has received special attention.

The round-snouted Saiga antelope, once on the brink of extinction, has also seen its population grow to around two million thanks to the conservation policies of Kazakh authorities and non-governmental organizations.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *