Prague Zoo to release Przewalski's horses into the wild in Kazakhstan

The agreement to send wild horses to the Central Asian country came during a 10-day trip by Prime Minister Petr Fiala to promote Czech interests abroad. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 25.04.2023 07:30:00 (updated on 24.04.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague Zoo is preparing to return Przewalski's horses to the wild in Kazakhstan, zoo director Miroslav Bobek told Czech media in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. The zoo has been active in preserving the world’s last species of wild horses for over 90 years and is now helping to return them to the wild.

Prague Zoo agreed to cooperate with the Committee for Forestry and Wildlife of the Kazakh Ministry of Ecology. Kazakhstan is one of the countries where Przewalski's horses used to live in the past.

"The Memorandum of Cooperation defines the procedure of the horses being returned here, for example, the selection of the sites, their examination, and then the import of horses. This is a breakthrough day for us. We should supervise the return of the Przewalski's horses and assist in it, while its financing will be secured by the Kazakh side," Bobek said.

The memorandum was signed in the presence of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and has Kazach counterpart Alikhan Smailov. Fiala is on a 10-day trip across Asia to promote Czech interests.

Four locations have been selected for the horses' release. "Two of them are in the north of Kazakhstan and two are south of Almaty. We think the two in the south are not quite suitable, but they have been selected, so we want to see them as well. We favor the other two in the steppe to the semi-desert belt," Bobek said.

On the selected sites, facilities will be built for the horses' reintroduction, mainly large pens where the horses will adapt to the conditions of their new home for the first year, and facilities for the wardens and so on, Bobek said.

Horses already released in Mongolia

A similar project is being implemented by the Prague Zoo in Mongolia, he said. So far, 34 horses have been reintroduced there since 2011 under a program called Return of the Wild Horses.

Prague Zoo has been breeding Przewalski's horses since 1932 and has kept an international studbook since 1959.

The species is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Due to conservation efforts, a population of about 400 horses in captivity worldwide in 1979 grew to over 1,500 by the 1990s.

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