They fight over the affection of the ladies, chase off their foes, and one even sneaked across a river to join some mares in a fenced enclosure. Such are the soap-opera lifestyles of Przewalski’s horses on the Mongolian steppe.
Conservationists are celebrating the successful return of four Przewalski’s horses to their native Mongolia, where they will eventually join their wild compatriots.
The arrival of the mares Querida, Rabea, Kíra and Paradise marked the fifth successful transport of the endangered wild horses from the Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic to their native habitat on the Mongolian steppe.
Life for the four will certainly be interesting, judging by the tales that have emerged of the romantic escapades of their predecessors.
The animals are now settling into an acclimatization enclosure, where they will remain under the supervision of rangers for about a year.
“Only then they will get the chance to run freely across the endless Mongolian landscape,” Prague Zoo’s director, Miroslav Bobek, said.
Three mares from the previous airlift from the Czech Republic were released from the acclimatization enclosure – the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area – only days before the arrival of the newcomers.
Bobek provides a colorful account of how the mares from previous airlifts have assimilated into local life.
He said the mare from the 2012 airlift were checked out by two wild stallions – Mogoi and Erkhes.
“Erkhes sized up his chances. He chased away his competitor and stayed near the enclosure with the mares for so long that the rangers finally let him go in.
“These four mares comprise Erkhes’s harem today and so far they have given him three foals. However, after more than two years of life in the wild they are so shy that it is impossible to approach them from closer than two kilometres,” he said.
Mogoi had to wait for the four mares airlifed to the region in the summer 2013.
“Being faithful to his name, which means Snake, he sneaked into the enclosure with them through a small river,” Bobek said.
“For a long time he lived only with these four mares – first in the acclimatization enclosure and then in the wild; only a few weeks ago he got a fifth one.
As for the three mares just released, the rangers of the protected area gave them the opportunity to become part of the harem of the young stallion Tanan.
Together with the three, Tanan had a harem of five mares and two foals.
“But everything changed only a few hours after this herd ran out of the enclosure,” Bobek said.
“Tanan led them to the southwest and the same evening he bumped into Mogoi. Something unexpected happened: Mogoi took over the whole of Tanan’s harem! So Tanan remained alone and Mogoi is leading a herd of 13 mares and 2 foals.
“I’m personally very curious if Mogoi will be able to keep his large harem, and which of the stallions will first of all become interested in Querida, Rabea, Kíra and Paradise.”
The journey of the four mares took 36 hours in all, relying on an airlift by the Czech Army, which has so far transported 19 Przewalski´s horses to Mongolia in five flights.
Bobek said this year’s operation was complicated by extreme heat in the Czech Republic and torrential rain in Mongolia.
Prague Zoo has played a significant role in the preservation of the Przewalski’s horse, which became extinct in the wild at the end of 1960s. They have been gradually reintroduced to their native habitat over the last 25 years.
Prague Zoo is in charge of keeping the studbook. The horses transported so far have produced 10 offspring.
Altogether, there are about 500 Przewalski’s horses living at three different locations in Mongolia. There are 137 of them in the Gobi B region.