Návrat koně Převalského (Equus przewalskii) do volné přírody Mongolska a Číny [The return of the Przewalski’s horse (Equus przewalskii) into the wild in Mongolia and China]

Pages 53–68
Citation KŮS, Ev6en. Návrat koně Převalského (Equus przewalskii) do volné přírody Mongolska a Číny [The return of the Przewalski’s horse (Equus przewalskii) into the wild in Mongolia and China]. Lynx, new series. Prague: National Museum, 2000, 31(1), 53–68. ISSN 0024-7774 (print), 1804-6460 (online). Also available from: https://publikace.nm.cz/en/periodicals/lns/31-1/navrat-kone-prevalskeho-equus-przewalskii-do-volne-prirody-mongolska-a-ciny-the-return-of-the-przewalskis-horse-equus-przewalskii-into-the-wild-in-mongolia-and-china
Lynx, new series | 2000/31/1

One hundred years passed since the time when the first transport of Przewalski’s horses captured in China and Mongolia by hunting expedition arrived to Europe. Its existence came through dramatic breaks in the course of 20th century. Przewalski’s horse, the last living wild horse became the symbol of the all endangered species on Earth. In several transports were imported in 1900–1902 to Europe 54 wild horses but only 12 of them gave offspring. Today world-wide population numbering over 1590 horses bred in zoological gardens and breeding centers of five continents. Observations of the wild-living Przewalski’s horse from the May 1968 is considered to be the last credible report. No one later report about observation of wild horses in nothern Xinjiang and Mongolian Altai Gobi was veryfied. An airplane survey of the Djungarian Gobi desert including Baytag Bogdo mountains and areas next to the Mongolian border made by the Chinese in 1986–1987 did not confirm the existence on any free living Przewalski’s horses. On 1st Symposium on preservation of the Przewalski’s horses in Prague in 1959 has been charged the Prague zoo due to its creditable work in breeding of this species with keeping of the International studbook. Since 1960, the population of Przewalski’s horses grew permanently, which increased hope for their return back to the wild. Possibility of reintroduction started to be dicussed after year 1980 when the world-wide population reached the number of 500 individuals and the annual growth amounted to approximately 10%. In May 1985, an international symposium was held in Moscow under the auspice of UNO, FAO and UNEP, where experts agreed on the way and time schedule of transports of first chosen Przewalski’s horses to Mongolian semireserves. However it remained only in the stage of intentions. The world conservation organisation like a IUCN or WWF failed at the historical moment, instead taking supervision of the whole project, they rather supported some regional and fragmentary actions and concentrated for the common and theoretical recommendation. On the end of eighties and nineties, the initive devolved upon the side of privat foundation in Germany and Netherlands. These foundation set acclimatization centers in China (Jimsar in north-ern Xinjiang, Wuwei in Gansu province) and in Mongolia (Hustain Nuruu National Park near Ulan Bator and Tachin Tal in Altai Gobi, in the last known refugium of the species). In this phase, mutual relationships between concerned organisations as well as persons complexified, and resulted in open indictment, which cast an unfavourable on the whole effort to return of last species of wild horse to its homeland. Hoping and expectations of zoological gardens were not met and zoos had no possibility and often no interest to participate on the reintroduction. But in last time seems that almost of contraversian position fall off and there is hope for new era of cooperation. Despite all problems, although the reintroduction has not been as succesfull as the Przewalski’s horses returned to its former native country and today there are living individuals born here in the second generation. In Mongolia in both acclimatization centres (Hustain Nuruu and Tachin Tal) several small herds are living in the free. In China, despite significant breeding succes in the acclimatization centers, the problem has not yet been solved – where to release the acclimatizated horses, and they remain entirely dependet on man help and care. The only choiced place – basin along river Ulungur in the Kalameili Mountain reserve is in traditional wintering place of 8000 herdsmen with more than 40.000 domestic animals including feral horses. Progress in reintroduction is therefore being made only in Mongolia. Evidence of losses of horses showed that most of falls can be attributed to injury caused by transport or by traumas from mutual attacks of horses (namely stallions in unsuitably located enclosures). In the harsh climate of the Gobi desert, the biggest problems the horses face when getting acclimazed are respiratory deseases. In all the reintroduction centres, horses suffer from blood parasites, and as regard afted by predators, especially wolves. It has become apparent that those that find it most difficult to accommodate to new conditions are the older horses. What cause problems are for Mongolia too early births of foals (April, May), which are due to the shift in the reproduction pattern from living in quite different condition in of Europe and Nothern America for more than 14 generation. On April 24, 1999, for example, the temperature of –28 °C was recorded in the Tachin Tal in the Gobi, and one of born foal froze to death. The optimal period for giving birth in this area would be end of May to July. Despite all these problems, the numebr of the Przewalski’s horses in the wild is growing. In 2000 transports have been completed to the NP Hustain Nuruu near Ulan Bator, where there is a stable population almost 120 horses, now with an annual growth of some 10%. The year 2000 has been a turning year in the hard condition Tachin Tal centre, where 14 foals was born in the spring, half of these in free living herds. When predicting future development of reintroductin, we have to bear in mind that the factors are still there, that in the 1960’s led to extiction of the Przewalski’s horse from the wild, especially in the Gobi: desertification and aridisation of semi-desert areas and steppes, limited number of water resources used part of the year by herds of domestic animal, grazing-out of vulnerable semi-desert ecosystems and the risk of cross-breeding with omnipresent feral horses. Jiří Volf, the former studbook-keeper, on ground of his stay in the Tachin Tal region in 1997, believes that the capacity of water resources is sufficient for all large mammal species, but the question remains whether these sources are avaible all year, especially in hard winter time without snow.

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