Global set-up and aims
The Reintroduction Project
This project is mainly focused at the establishment of a free living population of some 400-500 Przewalski horses in the Hustai National Park. The project receives no subsidy. It depends for its income totally on donations, gifts and private funding.
The sheltered lives in the zoos and the neglect of the processes of natural selection did confront the species with the undesirable effect of "creeping domestication." To be ascertained of a viable and sustainable free living progeny in the Hustai National Park, their parents in the semi-reserves had to be carefully selected on health and the criterion of a broad genetic variation.
The free roaming population of Hustai National Park was built by sending three groups of Przewalski horses every two years from the Netherlands to Hustai within a period of ten consecutive years. These groups consisted of five to eight animals (two family groups and a stallion group). In 1992 the first groups arrived in Hustai, and in 2000 the last. A total of 84 horses were reintroduced into the Hustai National Park. At present over 150 Przewalski horses, distributed over thirteen harems and one bachelor group, enjoy the freedom of Hustai.
When they first arrived in Hustai the groups were not immediately being released into the wild. They did spend some one and a half to two years in a so-called fenced-in acclimatisation area, where they could come to terms with each other, their new habitat and climate. In respectively 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2002 groups were released from these fenced-in areas into the wider national park.
Every Przewalski group in the fully protected National Park has its own home range through which they daily move in search of food, water and shelter. The size of the home ranges vary from 300 till 3200 ha and differ seasonally. The free roaming harems have to learn to defend themselves against wolves. There are frequent contacts with wolves. Instinctively the mares will group in a circle around the foals to protect them, while the stallion starts a counterattack.
All Przewalski groups at Hustai have their own ranger who follows them daily and who reports on their whereabouts, activities and interaction with other groups and other animal wildlife. The hereby gathered data gives a good insight in how the groups are being distributed over the national park and how they make use of the habitat.
Condition scoring is another important task of both the biologists and the rangers. Monthly the condition of each individual animal is being measured in order to have a clear view on how the adaptation processes are developing. New born foals, as well as found dead takhi and movements among the groups have to be reported to get an insight in the dynamics of the population. Wolves and other predators possibly may have an influence on the behaviour of herbivores and their habitat selection. Meanwhile many a new born Przewalski colt or filly has been able to enjoy the light of day in complete freedom.
The park staff bears responsibility for the daily proceedings in the Park and for the Przewalski horses.
The establishment of the Przewalski population and the raising of the necessary funds was the responsibility of the FRPH.
The Hustain Nuruu Steppe Project
This project, which is being subsidised by the Directorate General for International Co-operation (DGIS) of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs until 2004, has a duration of ten years (1993-2004). Its main objective is to establish a sound management apparatus with a qualified staff for protection, public awareness raising and research for the restoration and conservation of the original biological diversity of the Hustai National Park. The FRPH is responsible for the execution of the project and has sent an expert team to Hustai to assist MACNE with its difficult tasks.
The emphasis is mainly focused on technical and scientific assistance by means of field research training and practical nature conservation. Meanwhile some jeeps, a modern radio-communications system and other useful things could be bought.
A variety of educational material on the Przewalski horses and the National Park for local people, tourists and visitors (exhibitions, teaching material, excursions) are being developed. Inside the Park is a information centre.
Thanks to the good relations with the local population, the staff's own activities and the collaboration with local and national authorities there is no livestock inside the Park anymore. There is a fixed migration route for livestock, and the nomads are being escorted on their journey through the national park.
Environmental inspectors, appointed by the Ministry of Nature and Environment and the Central Province, assist in the struggle against illegal hunting practices and poaching.
There has never been a permanent settlement of people in Hustai. Nevertheless much has been done to compensate the local herdsmen, that used the area for seasonal pasturing. Most employees of the National Park, such as rangers and wardens, are themselves nomads.