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Sustainable preservation

Isolation and dispersion

Przewalski horse in Hustai National ParkThe Przewalski horses continue to be one of the most threatened species. There are less than 2000 of them in the world. Most of them are kept in zoos. If the effort here at Hustai National Park to establish at least one single population of free living Przewalski's will succeed than an important step toward sustainable survival of the entire species is made. However, there are no guarantees that the species will survive in the wild. Therefore, other reintroduction initiatives elsewhere will be vital for the continued existence of the species.

In the Southwest of Mongolia, more precisely in the Dzungarian Gobi at Tachyn Tal, another reintroduction project was launched. Unfortunately the natural growth of this population does not keep step with mortality rates despite of the frequent supply of Przewalski horses from zoos since 1992. In 2000 the total population consisted of some more than fifty animals, but in the last winter some ten horses must have died. A big loss for such a small population. The International Takhi Group, the organisation behind this project, did schedule another transport for 2002 and is stimulating research to find solutions. Let's hope that the French initiative to release takhi in 2004 in Chomiin Tal in the buffer zone of the Khar Us Nuur National Park in West Mongolia makes a successful start.

However, the trouble with this kind of geographically rather dispersed populations is that no natural mutual exchange of genetic material will take place. In the Netherlands much attention is given to this problem of a fragmented landscape and its consequences for the different ecological communities. By constructing flyovers to be used exclusively by wildlife, tunnels for badgers and wooded banks for birds, Dutch conservationists hope to stimulate recolonisation and to prevent sub populations from dying out.

In their country the Mongolians also want to release Przewalski horses at some other places, but unto the present they are fully dependent on foreign money and on the import of horses from abroad. More Przewalski populations in Mongolia will certainly expand the opportunities for developing exchange programmes, but it is still a long way to go.