Back to the wild
“The reintroduction project is a success. 25 Years after the first arrival there are more than 350 takhi, all enjoying a life of freedom. However, if we really want to guarantee a sustainable future for them at Hustai National Park, then the population has to expand to at least 500 horses to withstand calamities. Mongolia has an arid climate with long and severe winters. The sustainable conservation of the wild horse can only be achieved if its habitat, the Hustai National Park, is equally well preserved by enduring protective measures and wisely implemented control over its natural resources.
An effective protection of the National Park and its steppe ecosystem is realized thanks to a highly professional park staff and the good co-operation with the local community of the buffer zone.
Back in 1986 the Foundation had formed a partnership with the Institute for Animal Morphology and Ecology of Academy of Sciences in Moscow. This co-operation resulted into several expeditions to the steppes of Soviet Central Asia and Mongolia to find areas suitable for the reintroduction of the Przewalski horses. Alas, the vast yet undisturbed Central Asian grasslands belonged already to the most threatened ecosystems of the world. Many of these were already irreversibly spoilt due to excessive grazing and cultivation. Only Mongolia still had some rather pristine steppe biotopes, but even there the thread of overgrazing was present.
The protection and sustainable preservation of the wild horses, coincided with the protection and conservation of the pristine steppes of Mongolia. A beautiful 50,000 hectares (125.000 acres) large nature reserve was chosen for the reintroduction. This reserve, Hustain Nuruu, dominated by the sacred Hustai Mountain, which has been the long time object of worship among the locals, has an abundant flora and fauna. Thanks to the reintroduction of the takhi – Mongolia’s national symbol – Hustain Nuruu was upgraded to the status of National Park in 1998, which guarantees the sustainable conservation and protection of this mountain steppe ecosystem.
Also the local population of the three neighbouring villages whole-heartedly welcomed the return of the Przewalski horses.
In 1990 the long partnership with the non-governmental Mongolian Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (MACNE) was initiated for the execution of the reintroduction process. The government of Mongolia charged MACNE with the everyday management of the National Park. From 1992 until May/June 2000 the Foundation managed to bring 84 takhi in a total of five biennial transports from the Netherlands to Hustai National Park.
For an optimal adaption the newly arrived takhi were first kept into acclimatization areas. Here they could get used to the new surroundings, climate, vegetation and to integrate the individual animals into firm groups. When the groups were integrated they were ultimately released after one to two years.
After having lived for almost a century in captivity wild horses were roaming freely again in the wild without human interference.
The first phase of the reintroduction project was a success. Ten years after the first arrival there were more than 150 takhi; in 2016 their number was even more than doubled, all enjoying a life of freedom. However, if we really want to guarantee a sustainable future for them at Hustai National Park, then the population has to expand to at least 500 horses to withstand calamities. Mongolia has an arid climate with long and severe winters. The sustainable preservation of the wild horse can only be achieved if its habitat, the Hustai National Park, is equally well preserved by enduring protective measures and a wisely implemented control over its natural resources. However, Mongolia is a poor country and much will depend on the goodwill of- and co-operation with local people. The Foundation promised to continue its assistance to help to guarantee a sustainable future.
The effective protection of Hustai National Park is also beneficial to the restoration of the whole steppe ecosystem. A number of large herbivores like the Mongolian gazelle and Argali sheep followed the takhi back into Hustai National Park. Ecotourists, ecovolunteers and guest researchers from all over the world come to the National Park. Hustai is the subject of a number of international magazine and newspaper articles and television documentaries.