Popping in on Kordula

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  22. 07. 2019


The cars pushed their way through the sandy terrain, bumping, sinking in and then leaping into the air again, it brought back vivid memories of when I first came here eight years ago.

Przewalski horses in Khomiin Tal. In this case, two connected harem, one of which lives Cordordula with his descendants. Photo by Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo Przewalski horses in Khomiin Tal. In this case, two connected harem, one of which lives Cordordula with his descendants. Photo by Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

When we first arrived at Khomin Tal, exhausted from lack of sleep, we were within reach of a very demanding and uncertain anabasis - the first Return of the Wild Horses. Unlike all the subsequent transports, where the CASA aircraft landed on an unpaved area in Bulgan Sum and from there we transported the Przewalski’s to Tachin Tal, the very first trip in the summer of 2011 had a very different course and goal. The plane landed in Khovd, then we transported the horses - using Russian vehicles that often broke down – over crazy terrain to Khomin Tal. The terrestrial part of the journey lasted twenty-two hours!

As I was once again bumping along the route to Khomin Tal, after an eight-year hiatus, I wondered if this year’s transport really had been the hardest. Yes, we had faced tremendous problems - but when I remembered that long-ago journey to Khomin Tal, I burst into a cold sweat, despite the heat.

Fortunately, the appearance of three stallions in front of us soon distracted me from such thoughts. The cars stopped and Munkhtuya, who works on the Khomin Tal project, identified them for us. Then she added that two of them were the sons of mares that we had brought here eight years ago. One named Lima and the other Cassovia! Suddenly, the horrors of the previous anabasis were dispelled into the farthest reaches of my mind. Amazing! I looked at the three stallions - and two were “ours”!

When the stallions disappeared over the hill, we drove on. We soon came upon two other groups of horses. Each one had one offspring from our mares! It seemed incredible and I jokingly asked Munkhtuya if most of the eighty-five Khomin Tal Przewalski’s weren’t the sons and daughters of the three mares and one stallion that we brought here in 2011.

But the best was yet to come. As we carried on through the morning, we came across shelters where several harems sheltered from the harsh sun. Munkhtuya led me to them in a roundabout way. She first pointed out Hangal, Lima’s son, who is the lead stallion of one of the Khomin Tal harems, but she immediately carried on with her search. Finally, she pointed to one of the mares. Kordula! For me, the dearest of the four Przewalski’s that we brought to Khomin Tal all those years ago. Our Prague native, who is well known to many Mongolian children thanks to the “Kordula Flies Home” colouring book.

The youngest offspring of Kordula, a colt born this spring, pictured the same day in the evening. Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague ZooThe youngest offspring of Kordula, a colt born this spring, pictured the same day in the evening. Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

And Kordula was not alone. Hiding under the shelter with her was Eagle, her two-year-old offspring, and the colt that she gave birth to this spring. I stood watching them for some time. I felt a huge sense of joy and satisfaction. Despite all the trouble, stress and effort, the Return of the Wild Horses was well worth it!

Published in the Czech daily MF Dnes.