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Return of the Wild Horses

Photographer: Filip Singer

 

In a complex and highly delicate operation, carried out with literally military precision, four wild Przewalski's horses embarked on a journey to their native steppes, the Gobi desert region of southern Mongolia. The Return of Wild Horses project was first launched in 2011 and in July 2015 in a collaboration between Prague Zoo and the Czech Army a fourth group of the rare breed was prepared for the arduous journey from the Kbely military air transportation base in Prague to Bulgan, a 24-hour- journey requiring two stopovers for re-fuelling.

 

The horses, named after a Russian explorer and naturalist during an expedition, were moved from Prague Zoo to an acclimatization center, Dolni Dobrejov, some 80 kilometers from the capital. All four mares were born in different cities, Kira in Hungary's National Park in August 2008, Rabea in Leipzig in September 2009, Paradise in Paris in May 2009 and Querida in Prague Zoo in August 2012. It was the role of head vet Roman Vodicka to administer the tranquilizers during this acclimatization process and he had to use a double dosage of sedative on Querida who had sleeping difficulties. Before being installed in their respective transport crates, the horses have blood samples taken by the vets. With soaring temperatures across Europe, it was essential to avoid intense sun exposure, even to the point of the military aircraft transporting them being kept in a hangar.

 

During the course of the long journey, the crew on board try to maintain minimal temperature inside the plane while the vets attempt to keep their equine charges calm.

 

Upon landing on the difficult grass runway of Bulgan airport, the crates were loaded onto lorries for the next stage of the seven hour tortuous trip to the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve in the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area during which one of the prize Przewalski's horses collapsed but was stabilized with medication.

 

Arriving at the Reserve in the middle of the night, the horses are let out into an acclimatization pen and the Prague Zoo team finally can take a rest. This fourth adventurous horse transportation operation is once again a success. All four mares will stay in their paddock for one year as part of their preparation for the return to the wild, eventually helping to expand the heads of the last surviving wild horses in the world.