Hidden wildernesses in the metropolis

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  24. 04. 2021

On Monday afternoon, we released four Przewalski's horse mares into the almost twenty-hectare enclosure at Prague’s Dívčí hrady. Shortly after, when I saw two of them on the horizon with Prague’s Pankrác district in the background, I felt like I was in Nairobi National Park, where the high-rise buildings of the Kenyan capital loom behind giraffes.

Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

As expected, releasing the mares, transported from our breeding station in Dolní Dobřejov, attracted considerable media attention. Another activity, which took place last Saturday, was far less conspicuousness, although it was equally important to us: We released about one hundred and sixty crucian carp into the former mill race in the grounds of our zoo. It was the first step to help the return of this once completely common, but today extremely endangered fish, not only into our grounds, but, hopefully, into other Czech rivers and water bodies.

Releasing the Przewalski's horses at Dívčí hrady and the crucian carp into the zoo are both examples of our efforts to preserve the biodiversity of the local fauna and flora. Although our activities aimed at global conservation have gained far more renown, at least so far, our domestic efforts also have a relatively long history. For the most part, however, they have focused mainly on Prague Zoo’s grounds. For instance, the European ground squirrels did not simply turn up in the area below Sklenářka, it was all due to our colleagues, who released them there and then spent many years ensuring that their colony prospered.

An exemplary illustration of these activities is the revitalization of the zoo’s rock massif. Here we laboriously cut down false acacias and other unwanted vegetation, so that the bushy rock steppe and the vineyard once planted here could return. This restored environment has given many plant and animal species a valuable foothold, with perhaps the most visible indicator being the increase in the population of the critically endangered European green lizard. Just as a reminder: the main aim of releasing the Przewalski's horses at Dívčí hrady was also to restore the local steppe habitat.

Even though we are continuing in our efforts to develop our conservation projects around the world, despite the pandemic, we have not forgotten out commitments to our domestic ones. Having released the Przewalski's horses at Dívčí hrady, in the southwestern part of Prague, we are now planning to place European bison into a corral in the northeast of Prague. Now that’s something to look forward to!