Mongol Takhi - Wilde horses

by S. Batbayar

Mongol Takhi - Wilde horses

Ulaanbaatar. /MONTSAME/. Forty years ago, the world's last species of truly wild horse - the Takh, commonly known as Przewalski's horse - could no longer be found in the wild.

Now, thanks to worldwide conservation initiatives, Takhi once again roam the steppes of their native Mongolia in Hustai National Park.

Takhi disappeared from the wild due to an increase in human population, which led to habitat competition from people and livestock as well as over-hunting for horsemeat. By 1968, Takhi had become extinct in the wild in Mongolia, and only about 150 individuals remained in zoos around the world. Over time, the surviving Takhi became increasingly domesticated and inbred.

To save the species from what looked like inevitable extinction, the FPPPH (Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski's Horse) and FRPH (Foundation Reserves for the Przewalski's Horse) in the Netherlands came together to select a new habitat for the horses and reintroduce them back into the wild. The criteria for the new habitat included year-round availability of natural water sources, food, shelter, and a well-balanced ecosystem.

In 1992, in partnership with the FPPPH, MACNE (Mongolian Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment) and the Mongolian government selected Hustai National Park as the new habitat for the reintroduction of wild Takhi. After two years of acclimatization in 1994, 16 Takhi were released in the wild for the first time in 26 years to range free on the Mongolia steppe. Ten years later, the Takhi population had increased to 150; today, that number is nearly 200.

Horses have long been symbols of strength and courage in Mongolia, and the return of the Takhi has been a source of national pride. With its abundant wildlife, 450 species of flora and dramatic steppe landscapes, Hustai National Park attracts eco-tourists, volunteers, and researchers from all over the world. The Takhi project has also afforded biologists unprecedented opportunities to study the Takhi in the wild.

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