4 rare horses returned to the wild in Mongolia

AP News
Posted: Jun 24, 2011 9:08 AM
4 rare horses returned to the wild in Mongolia

Four rare wild Przewalski's Horses are home in their native grasslands of Central Asia following an epic journey from Europe by plane and truck.

The three mares and a stallion were finally roaming Mongolia's western Khomiin Tal Reserve after a 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile) flight from a Czech zoo breeding program and another 280-kilometer (175-mile) trip across Mongolia on trucks.

The females _ Kordula, Cassovia and Lima _ and the male named Matyas arrived from Prague Zoo as part of efforts to reintroduce the species. Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek on Friday called the horses' 52-hour trip a grand success.

"It could hardly have been done in a better way," Bobek told The Associated Press. "They survived it in good condition ... they seem to be feeling at home."

Still, Bobek said the four will need several weeks, if not months, to recover and get used to their new environment before they are allowed to join a herd of 24 other Przewalski's Horses reintroduced earlier by a French organization.

The stocky brown Przewalski's Horse, native to the steppes of Central Asia, became extinct in the wild in the late 1960s. It is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and considered wild because it has never been successfully domesticated.

International programs, mostly involving Dutch, Swiss and German wildlife organizations, have made efforts to reintroduce the species, first into Chinese national parks in the second half of the 1980s and later into Mongolia. However, due to financial issues, the last transport was organized in 2007, prompting the Prague Zoo to take action by itself for the first time.

Bobek said the zoo, which has been breeding the horses since it was founded in 1932, plans to transport another four of its Przewalski's Horses to Mongolia next year.