October 4, 2016
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, opened the gate and let the first group of wild horses loose into a preserve set up to save one of the last species of wild horses on earth. There are only roughly 2,000 Przewalski horses left, and Russia is committed to keeping the breed alive in the wild. The Przewalski horses once roamed the Eurasian steppes, through Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, but their habitat was taken over by cattle ranchers. When the horses could no longer roam the steppes, they perished in the wild. The ecology of the steppe suffered too. “In steppe ecosystems these animals contribute to their recovery,” said Olga Pereladova, the head of the World Wildlife Fund’s Central Asian program. “If horses are not grazing in the steppe it deteriorates because vegetation is not trampled; overabundance of grass can cause fires.”
The reserve serves as a breeding facility for Przewalski horses, and allows captive horses the opportunity to acclimate before being turned loose on the expansive steppes.
Scientists are hopeful that sufficient Przewalski remain to secure the future of the breed. China and Mongolia have reintroduced the Przewalski horses back into the wild as well.