A second herd of wild horses arrived at the nature reserve today to join a group of European bison

2015 - 12 - 17
A second herd of wild horses arrived at the nature reserve today to join a group of European bison

The herd of wild horses travelled about twelve hundred kilometres to the reserve located in the former military area of Milovice near Prague; the animals came from Exmoor, England, today to settle in a grazing area where a herd of European bison has been present for several days. Fourteen mares reached their acclimatization enclosure after 1 p.m.

Of the long journey that lasted over one day, the last metres became the greatest challenge, as the country road had turned into a slide covered in mud due to the rain that arrived in the night. As a result, three tractors had to pull the horse transport to the pen. However, the difficult terrain made it impossible for the special truck to make it all the way to the enclosure. As a result, after being unloaded from the truck, the horses had to pass through a 130-meter-long corridor improvised from vehicles and warning tape. “The animals were thirsty after their trip and all of them stopped to sip water from the puddles in the road at their new home,” said Miloslav Jirku from the Biological Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, describing their first moments after arrival.

“The mares survived the transport uninjured. Now they will undergo a busy period to become accustomed to their new setting full of unknown stimuli, and, to each other,” explained Martina Komarkova from Charles University in Prague.

Like the first herd of wild horses that arrived in the pasture this past January, which they now inhabit in the company of aurochs produced through a breed-back programme, these new mares will now establish relationships in their group. “Frequent, sharp, animal-to-animal reactions are now expected for the horses to clarify each other’s status in the hierarchy,” added Komarkova. She said the group will calm down after some 14 days and the horses will begin focusing more on grazing. In a couple of days, a stallion will join the mares.
The former military area provides large herbivores with a variety of habitats. “Part of the area is covered with a young forest. Seeing wild horses in such a setting is a very unusual experience. The horses will be able to use this section mainly as shelter in bad weather, otherwise they will of course prefer the open steppe,” explained Dalibor Dostal, director of the conservation organization European Wildlife.

The wild horses will spend several weeks in the acclimatization facility. Afterwards, they will join the herd of European bison that arrived from three reserves located in Poland ten days ago. The return of large hoofed mammals aims not only to repopulate natural areas with native species of large animals, but, in particular, to protect and restore threatened steppe habitats with many endangered species of plants and animals that had been evolving within them for thousands of years.

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