Holding out for a Hero in the Highlands

September 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

The waiting game is over for the Highland Wildlife Park’s resident female Przewalski’s horses, as they welcomed a new stallion called Hero.

Photo by Jan Morse

This five year old stallion arrived last month and after a 30 day quarantine period was introduced to the Park’s resident mares, Sara and Ieda. The three seem to be getting on well together so far, although there was a bit of kicking and chasing to begin with. He been sticking close to his new harem and the herd have been seen nibbling one another.  Part of grooming, the nibbling also helps to strengthen the bonds amongst the herd as a whole.

Since moving in, keepers have already spotted mating behaviour between Hero and Sara. It is hoped that Hero’s first foals will be born next August, this would be great news as it would continue the Park’s successful history in breeding this Endangered species.

Przewalski’s wild horses – pronounced sheh-val-skee – were among the most threatened species in the world, and the horses are named after the Russian explorer, Nicolai Przewalski, who first discovered and identified them in 1880. It is the only true wild horse left on the planet and they were once found roaming throughout the steppes of central Asia from the Mongolia-China border to continental Europe. These animals had become entirely extinct in the wild, with the last sighting taking place over 40 years ago, but thanks to the international zoo effort to conserve the species Przewalski’s horses have been reintroduced backinto Mongolia.

There are now around 1,500 of these wild horses found in captive breeding programmes throughout the world, with a further 250 or so found in the wild population as a result of the reintroductions to their homeland, Mongolia.

Photo by Jan Morse

Douglas Richardson, animal collection manager at Highland Wildlife Park, said:

“Przewalski’s horses have been kept at the Highland Wildlife Park since it opened in 1972, and so it is fitting that we should welcome a new breeding male during our 40th anniversary year.  This species is one of the classic examples of the positive role that good zoos can play in conserving species.  Had there not been a managed captive population, the small group that was seen in the wild in 1968 would have been the last time that anyone would have observed a living example of this wonderful species.  Had there not been a zoo population, we would not have had the animals to send back to Mongolia to once again exist as a wild species.  Przewalski’s horses are iconic for our Park, for those that recognise the conservation role of good zoos, and they demonstrate that extinction in the wild can be reversed.”


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