Prague Zoo transported first Przewalski’s horses to the steppes of Kazakhstan


04. 06. 2024

First three Przewalski’s horses were successfully transported from Europe to Kazakhstan. One stallion named Zorro and two mares Zeta II and Ypsilonka flew on the board of a CASA C-295M military aircraft of the Air Force of the Army of the Czech Republic and landed in Arkalyk in Central Kazakhstan. After a following ground transport the horses were released into the acclimatization pens the same day at 18.40 local time. Additional four horses are being transported this week from Tierpark Berlin, Germany, also by the Czech Army. The presence of the Przewalski’s horses in the Altyn Dala region will not only mean that the last living wild horse return to their ancestral home, but it will help the local steppe ecosystem as a whole.

Unloading of transport boxes with Prewalski’s horses at the landing field in Arkalyk in central Kazakhstan. Photo by Václav Šilha, Prague Zoo Unloading of transport boxes with Prewalski’s horses at the landing field in Arkalyk in central Kazakhstan. Photo by Václav Šilha, Prague Zoo

“After hundreds of years, first Przewalski’s horses have returned to the steppes of central Kazakhstan,” said Miroslav Bobek, the director of the Prague Zoo, after the release of the first horse Zeta II. “We still have a long way to go, but this was a historic moment. The sight of Zeta II running off into the steppe will never leave my memory.”

The three horses that grew up in the South Bohemian breeding centre in Dolní Dobřejov which is run by the Prague Zoo will now get used to the life in the Altyn Dala – the Golden Steppe – in the Alibi reintroduction centre run by ACBK. They will become the founders of a renewed population in the land of their ancestors.

Cesta z Arkalyku do reintrodukčního centra Alibi na povodněmi zničených silnicích. Foto: Václav Šilha, Zoo Praha

The road from Arkalyk to the Alibi reintroduction center on flood-damaged roads.
Photo by Václav Šilha, Prague Zoo


“We faced many problems, but still we successfully transported the three horses over a distance of more than four thousand kilometres from Prague to central Kazakhstan,” said the director of the Prague Zoo, Miroslav Bobek. “It should also be noted that a very short time has passed since the birth of the idea of the project to the actual release of the horses, during which we also faced other difficulties, including the massive floods in Altyn Dala. A big thank you goes out to all those involved and our partner organizations.”

The Zeta II mare was the first to be released because her name recalls the famous Prague mare Zeta, who became the mother of a large number of foals in Mongolia and lived to a record age. After her, her sister Ypsilonka ran out of the transport box, followed by the young stallion Zorro.

The trio of horses handled the transport from the Prague Zoo breeding station in Dolní Dobřejov very well. This was followed by a 15-hour long flight from Prague-Kbely Airport with stopovers in Istanbul and Baku. At 8.20 a.m. local time, CASA touched down at the long abandoned airfield in Arkalyk, central Kazakhstan. After unloading the horses and loading them with a crane onto trucks, the convoy of cars with the horses and police escort traveled for over eight hours through often challenging terrain. There was also a ford across the river that had to be crossed. In total, the horses covered a distance of approximately 4,500 kilometres.

.Zeta II vybíhá z přepravního boxu do aklimatizační ohrady. Foto: Václav Šilha, Zoo Praha

Zeta II runs out of the transport box into the acclimatization enclosure. Photo by Václav Šilha, Prague Zoo


More about the project that has a goal of transporting 40 horses over the next four years: