Back to the wild
Back in 1986 the Foundation had formed a partnership with the Institute for Animal Morphology and Ecology of Academy of Sciences in Moscow. This co-operation resulted into several expeditions to the steppes of Soviet Central Asia and Mongolia to find areas suitable for the reintroduction of the Przewalski horses. Alas, the vast yet undisturbed Central Asian grasslands belonged already to the most threatened ecosystems of the world. Many of these were already irreversibly spoilt due to excessive grazing and cultivation. Only Mongolia still had some rather pristine steppe biotopes, but even there the thread of overgrazing was present.
The protection and sustainable preservation of the wild horses, coincided with the protection and conservation of the pristine steppes of Mongolia. A beautiful 50,000 acres large nature reserve was chosen for the reintroduction. This reserve, Hustain Nuruu, dominated by the sacred Hustai Mountain, which has been the long time object of worship among the locals, has an abundant flora and fauna. Thanks to the reintroduction of the takhi - Mongolia's national symbol - Hustain Nuruu was upgraded to the status of National Park, which guarantees the sustainable conservation and protection of this mountain steppe ecosystem.
Also the local populations of the three neighbouring villages whole-heartedly welcomed the return of the Przewalski horses.
In 1990 the long partnership with the non-governmental Mongolian Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment was initiated for the execution of the reintroduction process. The government of Mongolia charged MACNE with the everyday management of the National Park. From 1992 until May/June 2000 the Foundation managed to bring 84 takhi in a total of five biennial transports from the Netherlands to Hustai National Park.
To let the newly arrived takhi get used to the new surroundings, climate, vegetation and to integrate the individual animals into firm groups, they were primarily kept into acclimatisation areas from which they were ultimately released after one to two years.
After having lived for almost a century in captivity the wild horses were roaming freely again in the wild without human interference.
The first phase of the reintroduction project is a success. Ten years after the first arrival there are more than 150 takhi, all enjoying a life of freedom. However, if we really want to guarantee a sustainable future for them at Hustai National Park, then the population has to expand to at least 500 horses to withstand calamities. Mongolia has an arid climate with long and severe winters. The sustainable preservation of the wild horse can only be achieved if its habitat, the Hustai National Park, is equally well preserved by enduring protective measures and a wisely implemented control over its natural resources. However, Mongolia is a poor country and much will depend on the goodwill and co-operation of local people. The Foundation promised to continue its assistance to help to guarantee a sustainable future.
The effective protection of Hustai National Park is also beneficial to the restoration of the whole steppe ecosystem. A number of large herbivores like the Mongolian gazelle and Argali sheep followed the takhi back into Hustain Nuruu. Ecotourists, ecovolunteers and guest researchers from all over the world come to the National Park. Hustai was also the subject of a number of international magazine and newspaper articles and television documentaries.