Keepers at the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland have just welcomed their first new-born Przewalski’s horse in five years. Born on September 2 to 12-year-old mare Ieda, the plucky little youngster is doing well and can already be seen out and about in the Park's main reserve.
Przewalski’s horses were once extinct in the wild, with the last wild horse seen in 1968. A small captive-bred population was reintroduced in Mongolia's Hustai National Park in the 1990s. There are now around 1,500 Przewalski's horses found in captive breeding programs throughout the world, with a further 250 or so found in the wild. Now listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, they are the only true wild horse species to survive.
Douglas Richardson, head of living collections for the Highland Wildlife Park, says, "Przewalski's horses are one of the best examples of the positive conservation role that good zoos can play. Had it not been for the cooperatively managed captive population, when the species became extinct in the wild in the late 1960s there would have been no reintroduction option that has allowed us to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat."
See and learn more about the herd after the fold.
Says Richardson, "As soon as we introduced Hero, our stallion, to the mares last September, he immediately started courting one then the other, and as the gestation period is 11.5-12 months, this latest foal has arrived right on schedule."
A first time father, six-year-old Hero arrived at the Park in August last year and spent 30 days in quarantine before joining Ieda and Sara, the Park's resident mares, in early September. Over the past year Hero has built a reputation for himself and is notorious for his feisty personality as well as being fiercely protective of his herd.
As the only true wild horse species to survive, Przewalski's horses are easily identifiable by their stark golden coloring and upright black manes. Named after the Russian explorer Nikolai Przewalski who formally discovered the species in the 1870s, the biggest threats to their survival as a species include hybridisation with domestic horse breeds, habitat degradation and competition with livestock for food and water.