Wild Przewalski’s horses went extinct in the mid-20th century
URUMQI, May 22 (Xinhua) — Four endangered Przewalski’s horses were sent to Mongolia from west China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on May 21st, marking the first time for China to send the horses to another country since reintroducing the species 17 years ago, according to Cao Jie, director of the Xinjiang Wild Horse Propagation Center.
China and Mongolia are the only two countries that have successively released Przewalski’s horses into the wild.
Zoologists from both countries said the exchange is just the first of many that will help to optimize the species, maintain genetic diversity and further raise reproduction and survival rates.
Przewalski’s horses historically live on grasslands that are now part of China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Mongolia. The species faced extinction after rampant hunting that began in the early 19th century.
Wild Przewalski’s horses went extinct in the mid-20th century. Currently, there are fewer than 1,500 domestically-bred Prezewalski’s horses in the world.
China started a breeding program for the species in 1985, relying on Przewalski’s horses brought back to the WHPC from Britain, Germany and the United States to breed the species.
The center started to release its horses into a semi-wild environment in 2001. Fifty-seven of the 74 horses bred by the center survived, amounting to a survival rate of more than 70 percent. The center now has 267 Przewalski’s horses.
The horses sent to Mongolia underwent a 30-day quarantine to prepare them for their arrival at the Great Gobi B National Park, where they will join 60 other horses.
“The horses are between three and five years old, the best age for breeding. They are distantly related to the horses at Great Gobi B National Park,” Cao said.
“We are excited to receive horses from China,” said Dr. Enkhsaikhan Namtar, office manager of the International Takhi Group, an organization dedicated to saving wild Mongolian horses.
He said the horses will first be kept in captivity and gradually released into the wild after becoming acclimated to their new environment.
Both China and Mongolia plan to exchange horses with more countries in the near future, including Germany, Britain and the United States, according to experts in the field.