The most difficult Return of the Wild Horses

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  24. 06. 2019


Now we’re okay. The mares Tárik, Tara and Spina are taking it easy in the acclimatization enclosure and here, at the base in Takhin Tal, a celebration is being prepared in honour of the ninth Return of the Wild horses. Finally, we can relax, and this time it’s well-earned.

Loading the horses for the first time in Kbely. Then the plane had to almost completely unloaded and loaded again. Loading the horses for the first time in Kbely. Then the plane had to almost completely unloaded and loaded again.

This year’s transport of Przewalski’s horses from Prague to Mongolia was dogged by extraordinary bad luck. It started in Dolní Dobřejov, we had to return one of the mares to the paddock, after already having loaded her on a truck, and choose another one. Last year, when we transported Yara from Switzerland to the Czech Republic, she was so calm in the very same transport box she seemed she would even be able to go overland to Mongolia, however, for unknown reasons, she started lying down. So, she was replaced by Tárik. Therefore, we drove four mares to Kbely airport, but we were already behind schedule. However, a far greater problem was yet to come.

Even in Mongolia we encountered some difficulties. One of the trucks broke down on the way to Takhin, so Tárik and Tara had to be transferred to the spare. Even in Mongolia we encountered some difficulties. One of the trucks broke down on the way to Takhin, so Tárik and Tara had to be transferred to the spare.

As the CASA military plane, loaded with four Przewalski’s, was taxiing out of the hangar in Kbely onto the airfield for the take-off, the mare Tania slipped in the transport box and her rear legs got trapped under her body. She was unable to get up, and, so that the vet and keepers could help her, it was necessary to take the box outside. The preparations for the start had to be interrupted and the plane had to be virtually unloaded again. Tania managed to get out, but we didn't want to take her to Mongolia under these circumstances. We decided to fly with just three mares. But by the time we’d loaded the plane up again and actually set off from Kbely, we were over two hours late. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Spina had to receive medication to calm her down after flying over Novosibirsk.

It was the most difficult transport since the first one in 2011, but in Takhin tal we managed to release the mares into the last rays of the setting sun. Shortly after nine in the evening, Tarik and Tara ran out of the transport boxes, followed a little later by Spina.

Yes, we can relax. Tárik, Tara and Spina are getting used to the Mongolian conditions in the Takhin tal acclimatization enclosure, while Tania, who was supposed to be with them, is walking around the paddock in Prague Zoo and Yara is enjoying the pasture in Dobřejov. When I sat down to write this column, I wanted to give it the title "Three-Quarter Success". But then I realized that that was nonsense. Despite all the complications, we still managed to bring three mares from Europe to the Gobi – for the ninth time, and we did not lose one horse during this extremely difficult transport. Thirty-four horses in Mongolia and not one has died on us! This is something incredible, and only the initiated know how much effort, nerves and how many difficult decisions it involves.

That is why the only thing I'm going to say about this year's Return of the Wild Horses is that it was hard won, but all the more successful for it.

Releasing Tara in Takhin tal. In Dolní Dobřejov, we were considering whether or not to replace her, as with Yara, but, in the end, her transportation was problem-free. Releasing Tara in Takhin tal. In Dolní Dobřejov, we were considering whether or not to replace her, as with Yara, but, in the end, her transportation was problem-free.

Published in the Czech daily MF Dnes.