Mongolia's wild horses have come home

Published on : 2 December 2009 - 3:17pm | By Dheera Sujan
For decades they were extinct in the wild, but the Przewalski horse is back on the Steppes of Mongolia. And that’s largely thanks to three Dutch people who made it their life mission to save this small pale-gold pony.

Twenty years ago, couple Jan and Inge Bouman, together with their lifelong friend Annette Groeneveld, realised the dangers faced by the Przewalski horse.

The horses were discovered on the Mongolian Steppes a century ago by a European expedition headed by Nikolai Przhevalsky (the name of the horse is the Polish variant of the name). After they realised that they were the last living ancestor of our domestic horses, 55 foals were shipped back to Europe.

It was a move that saved the species. Within 60 years, they had been eradicated from the Steppes. But years of inbreeding had taken a terrible toll. There were only a few sorry specimens left in zoos around the world and most of the foals born to them died within a couple of years.

Fund raising
The Boumans and Groeneveld mounted a formidable fund raising campaign to buy the horses from zoos and cross bred the pairs to refresh the stock. But the ultimate goal was clear – the Przewalski should return to its natural home.

They were lucky. In the 1990s Mongolia was emerging from seven decades of Soviet rule. And the Przewalski horse was a powerful symbol of Mongolian identity. They had always been known to Mongolians as takh – holy. The Mongolian government responded to the call of the Boumans and Groeneveld by offering the Hustai National Park as a refuge to the takhs coming home.

To a nation of horse lovers, the return of the takh was an emotional moment. Nowadays, 200 of these pale ponies graze peacefully on the grass sea that fed their ancestors for centuries.

Source:Radio Netherlands Worldwide


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