Credit: Freepik

Prague Zoo Will Transport Przewalski’s Horses to Kazakhstan in June

Prague Zoo will transport eight Przewalski’s horses to Kazakhstan at the beginning of June. Three stallions and five mares will be airlifted to the Central Asian country from zoos in Prague and Berlin, as part of a long-term project of returning the species to the wild, Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek said today.

He explained Prague Zoo’s plan to transport some 40 horses to Kazakhstan’s Altyn Dala steppe area over the next five years. The aim of the project is to restore the wild population of Przewalski’s horse, the last surviving wild horse species.

The first transport of Przewalski’s horses from Europe to Altyn Dala will take place on 3-4 June, with the assistance of the Czech army and four other partners. Four horses will be transported by Prague Zoo by one plane from Prague-Kbely military airport, while the other four will be transported from Berlin by the local zoo.

Czech PM Petr Fiala has taken over the patronage of the project.

“The Altyn Dala area has been chosen, among other things, because it is a fertile steppe with plenty of water and a suitable terrain profile,” Bobek said.

Upon arrival, the Przewalski’s horses will be released first into an acclimatisation pen, where they will spend about a year getting used to the local conditions. The zoo approves individual horses for release into the wild based on several parameters, such as age, sex, as well as temperament, Bobek said.

A similar transport like the upcoming one could take place every year, he said, adding that the horses will come not only from Prague Zoo, but also from elsewhere in Europe.

Prague Zoo is preparing a similar project for an area of eastern Mongolia, where at least 50 newcomers will improve the genetic diversity of the local population of the Przewalski’s horse.

Przewalski’s horse disappeared from the wild at the end of the 1960s, but a steadily growing population in captivity eventually allowed the reintroduction of the species, first to China and then to Mongolia. Prague Zoo also participated in this, with nine transports of Przewalski’s horses to western Mongolia between 2011 and 2019.

Prague Zoo has been breeding Przewalski’s horses since 1932, and has kept an international studbook since 1959. Over 230 foals have been born at the zoo, which has been awarded the highest Conservation Award by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) for its Return of Wild Horses project, and for its long-standing contribution to the rescue of the Przewalski’s horse.

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