What happened with the studbook system of the Foundation?
On basis of the data of this studbook inventory card system a breeding programme was developed for the Przewalski horses of the Foundation in the semi-reserves in the Netherlands and Germany. When the breeding programme was finished and most of the descendants of the several breeding groups were reintroduced into Hustai National Park, the painstaking job of keeping up the system also could be stopped. What to do with this historical valuable system?
Fortunately the Blijdorp Zoo at Rotterdam (the Netherlands) was prepared to keep the rather extensive card system in their office.
Why is it important to safeguard this system for the future?
In 1959 Dr Erna Mohr published “Das Urwildpferd” , which contained the very first issue of the Przewalski Horse Studbook. At that time a studbook for a wild animal species in captivity was something very new in the zoo world. Zoos became gradually aware of the decline of many animal species in the wild with its consequences that import of new blood became less easy to obtain. The necessity of developing breeding programmes for the small populations of endangered species in captivity became important. In 1959 there were only sixty Przewalski horses in captivity and their number in the wild was uncertain. Erna Mohr collected the basic data of all these Przewalski horses in zoos and their family history in captivity. In her studbook each horse was given a unique studbook number, and the name, date and place of birth, parents, transfers and present whereabouts were published. After her death the Prague Zoo continued to maintain the studbook and keeps it up to date.
The Foundation’s studbook was based on the data of the official Prague studbook.
In order to be able to develop a breeding programme it is however necessary to have more data. The pedigree of every dead and alive horse has to be known. Such a system needs to provide information about kinship, levels of kinship and which horses have produced offspring.
The studbook system of the Foundation was divided in four categories and counts more than 3500 cards.
- Information on individual horses with details on identification, ancestry, descendants, inbreeding coefficient and founder representation. When available death cause and/or diseases were added.
- Information on collections maintaining Przewalski horses giving details on husbandry, breeding management and composition of groups within each zoo.
- Information on breeding lines
- Information on surveys of the average life span, fertility, mortality and inbreeding.
It gives information over the period from their arrival in captivity around 1900 till 1993. From than on the Foundation used computer programmes and did not keep the card system up to date anymore.
We are grateful to the Blijdorp Zoo that they want to safeguard this system as archive material for study the breeding history of an very endangered species, which fortunately could be given a new chance in the wild.
Students or researchers who want to use this material for their studies have to contact the Blijdorp Zoo at Rotterdam (the Netherlands).