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18.10.2015 The first Przewalsky’s horses delivered from France to Russia’s Orenburg reserve
On 18 October 2015, six Przewalsky’s horses arrived on a charter flight from Montpellier, France, to the Orenburg airport. This arrival kicked off Russia’s only programme for restoration (reintroduction) of the Przewalsky’s horse in the Orenburg region, on the Preduralskaya Steppe cluster of the Orenburg reserve. The programme became possible owing to the support of the UNDP/GEF project “Improving the coverage and management efficiency of protected areas in the steppe biome of Russia”. A few more groups of Przewalsky’s horses will be brought here under the programme in the coming years.
Przewalsky’s horse (Order: Odd-toed ungulates (Perissodactyla), Family: Horse (Equidae), Genus: Equus Przewalsky’s horse) is the only surviving subspecies of true horses on our entire planet. The species is recorded on the RF Red Book and Annex 1 to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and on the IUCN Red List. Przewalsky’s horse was discovered by the Russian traveller Nikolai Przewalsky during his second expedition to Central Asia (Jungaria) in 1879. Local hunters gave him a present: the skull and skin of an unusual horse. After coming back to Russia, Przewalsky handed them over to the Zoology Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint-Petersburg, and in 1881 Ivan Polyakov described a new, previously unknown horse species, and named it after Przewalsky (Equus przewalskii Polj, 1881).
The idea to restore the wild horse population in the Orenburg region was proposed by Dr.Sergei Levykin, researcher at the Steppe Institute of the Urals Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in the late 1990-s. Dr.Aleksander Chibilev, Head of the Institute, corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences, did a lot to promote this idea. It is owing to the efforts and active participation of experts from Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution and Zoology Museum the Przewalsky’s horse rehabilitation programme for the Orenburg region was developed and approved, with the aim to create a free population of the Przewalsky’s horse in its historical area in Russia and at the same time add another acotourism attraction to the Orenburg steppes. Also, the programme identified the area for horse release: the Orlovskaya Steppe site.
Practical implementation of the programme began only in 2010 under the UNDP/GEF project “Improving the coverage and management efficiency of protected areas in the steppe biome of Russia”. The key prerequisite for its implementation and the major task to be accomplished by the UNDP/GEF Project and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment was to establish the Orlovskaya steppe site as the new cluster of Orenburg reserve (later renamed as Preduralskaya steppe). The Preduralskaya Steppe site has everything that is required to qualify as an area for breeding and keeping in the wild Przewalsky’s horse. It is virgin steppe combined with fallow lands that have not been ploughed up since 1965. The site area is over 16.5 thousand hectares. In 2015, the site was included in the federal Orenburg Nature Reserve. Owing to the natural environment here, Przewalsky’s horses can not only live here independently for the period of temporary holding in acclimatisation zones during year one, but also after they have been released in the wild. All the necessary infrastructure required to keep the horse in semi-free conditions has been constructed.
The Przewalsky’s Horse Reintroduction Programme in the Orenburg region will be carried out for 15 years. According to the plans, by 2030 a semi-free population of 100 to 150 Przewalsky’s horses will be created on the Preduralskaya Steppe site.
The Programme is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environment Facility (GEF), RF Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Russian Geographic Society, Steppe Institute of the Urals Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution (Moscow), Zoology Museum (Moscow), Government of the Orenburg region and Supervisory Council of the Orenburg branch of the RGS, and the regional foundation Regeneration of the Orenburg Fauna.
This work be carried out jointly with global leaders in Przewalsky’s horse conservation: The Przewalsky’s Horse Association: ŇŔŐ (Association pour le Cheval de Przewalsky: TAKH, France, bio station Tour du Vale, European Endangered Programme for Przerwalski Horse (programme sponsor: Cologne zoo, Germany), Equid Taxon Advisory Group (trustee: Stuttgart zoo, Germany), International Studbook for the Przewalsky horse (trustee: Prague zoo), Altyn-Emel national park (Kazakhstan), Askania-Nova biosphere reserve (Ukraine), and Khustai-Nuru national park (Mongolia).
Tatiana Zharkikh, leader of the reintroduction project, Orenburg Reserve , email@example.com
Natalia Sudets, PR specialist for the UNDP/GEF Steppe PA Project, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Natalia Sudets
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