Wild horses are settling down in Podyji National Park, they came today from Exmoor, England

2018 - 05 - 10
Wild horses are settling down in Podyjí National Park, they came today from Exmoor, England

Two herds of wild horses from Exmoor in England have come today to Podyji National Park, close to the borders of the Czech Republic and Austria. The wild horses will help with the care of two unique localities in Podyjí National Park and protect them against aggressive kinds of grass and bush regrowth.

Eleven of the rare animals came in a special truck. “The wild horses are after the journey longer than 1,700 kilometres. We are glad they managed the journey without any difficulties,” stated Dalibor Dostal, the Director of European Wildlife conservation organisation, which deals with the return of big herbivores into the countryside. It is the first time ever in the Czech Republic when big herbivores grazing has been used for nature conservation in a national park.

The big herbivores return is a part of a vast project Military Life for Nature, financed from the European programme Life. The main purpose of the project is to support and to preserve rare plant and animal species which need areas with various non-forest vegetation. The project arranges nature protection in five former military areas, protected within the Natura 2000 European system, in various parts of the Czech Republic.

In Podyji National Park the horses will maintain a total area of almost 70 hectares. “In contrast with domestic animals, they are not choosy and they graze down even the worst cover, including aggressive grass and self-seeding woody plants. By doing that they make space for rare flower species and a range of butterfly species which are dependent on these flowers,” explained Pavel Marhoul, an expert project guarantor.

One of the localities is a species rich rock steppe, the other one is mixed meadow communities. Both localities are treasuries of rare plants and animals, such as pasqueflowers, junipers, orchids, tens of species of butterflies, European green lizards, Aesculapian snakes, and many others. “They all cannot get along without long-term care of their areas and natural grazing management is the closest to nature. They are very valuable localities and it is a great commitment to preserve their natural values for future generations,” adds Pavel Marhoul.

Wild horses are also able to regulate self-seeding woody plants, the spread of which in steppes is otherwise hard to solve. That is why we offered the project f two areas which we have been taking care of for a long time,” remarked Lenka Reiterova, a botanist of Podyji national Park Management.

Although there have been two wild horse herds since 2015 in the former military area of Milovice, not far from the Czech capital, Prague, it was important to bring animals to Podyji National Park directly from England. “It is necessary to create the widest genetic base possible of non-related animals,” explained Miloslav Jirku of the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Ceské Budejovice.

The first written reports about wild horses in Exmoor come from 1086. The animals have been stated there on wild game lists since time immemorial and they were part of royal hunting forest.

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