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From Prague to Mongolia, Wild Horses Return to the Steppes


Przewalski's horses graze at the acclimatisation enclosure in the early morning hours at the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in southwest Mongolia, June 23, 2017.

A quarter-century-old project to repopulate the steppes of Mongolia with wild horses was kept alive as four animals made the long trip back to their ancestral home from the Prague Zoo.

Driven to extinction in their homeland in the 1960s, the Przewalski's horses survived in captivity before efforts began to re-introduce them to the arid desert and mountains along Mongolia's border with China.

A Przewalski's horse peers out of a container on the way to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in southwest Mongolia, June 20, 2017.
A Przewalski's horse peers out of a container on the way to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in southwest Mongolia, June 20, 2017.

Zoos organized the first transport to Mongolia of the strong, stocky beasts in 1992.

For the past decade, Prague Zoo has been the only one continuing that tradition and it holds the studbook of a species whose ancestors - unlike other free-roaming horses such as the wild mustangs of the United States - were never domesticated.

The zoo completed its seventh transport last week, releasing four mares born in captivity in the Czech Republic, Germany and Denmark in the Gobi desert. They will spend the next year in an enclosed area to acclimatize before being freed.

Trucks carrying Przewalski's horses drive to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in southwest Mongolia, June 20, 2017.
Trucks carrying Przewalski's horses drive to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in southwest Mongolia, June 20, 2017.

"All the mares are looking very well, they are not hobbling, they are calm, eating hay and trying to test the taste of the new grass," Prague Zoo veterinarian Roman Vodicka said after making observations a few days after the release.

Prague has released 27 horses in total and officials estimate around 190 are now back in the wild in the Gobi B park, where the most recent arrivals were sent.

A herd of endangered Przewalski's horses trot across the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in southwest Mongolia, June 22, 2017.
A herd of endangered Przewalski's horses trot across the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in southwest Mongolia, June 22, 2017.
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