Przewalski’s horses return to Kazakhstan’s Golden Steppe

Horse release by Miroslav Bobek Prague Zoo

The first week in June saw a wildlife and biodiversity conservation milestone, as seven Przewalski’s horses arrived in Kazakhstan, the first phase of the “Return of the Wild Horses 2024” project. Reintroducing the horses to one of their natural habitats, following a centuries-old absence, is part of ongoing efforts to establish a self-sustaining population in the region and to restore Kazakhstan’s unique steppe ecosystems.

The horses—six mares and one stallion—traveled in two convoys to reach Arkalyk, a city in northern Kazakhstan.  The first transport, carrying three mares from the Prague Zoo, arrived early morning, June 4th.  The second, transporting another three mares and one stallion, arrived two days later. From Arkalyk, the horses were transported to the Alibi Reintroduction Center, located in Altyn Dala State Nature Reserve in central Kazakhstan. The horses will remain at Alibi for about a year for acclimatization, under the close supervision of veterinarians and scientists.  Before they are released into the wild, the equines must demonstrate (1) resistance to cold temperatures and parasites, and (2) an ability to find food under heavy snow.

Over the next five years, the initiative aims to reintroduce a total of 40 Przewalski’s horses to their native habitat in Kazakhstan, completing the “trio” (together with the Asiatic wild ass or “kulan” and saiga antelope) of native large herbivores for the steppe ecosystem.  The Prague Zoo, project leader, is working with partners to ready the next transport of horses for arrival in spring 2025.

Participants from Kazakhstan include the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity (ACBK), which manages the Alibi Reintroduction Center. Since 2017, “Alibi” has hosted other equid species; namely, the Asiatic wild ass, to prepare them for release into the wild as well.  The Committee for Forestry and Wildlife, a department of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, is also a member of the project’s coalition.

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