The Return of the Wild Horses – 10 Years on

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  12. 06. 2021

When I was preparing for my first ever visit to Prague Zoo’s breeding and acclimatisation station in Dolní Dobřejov, just before St. Nicholas Day 2010, snow was lying fresh on the ground. Everyone started trying to talk me out of the trip. It was as if I was going way up beyond the Arctic Circle, not just eighty kilometres out of Prague, even though it was to the region known as Czech Siberia. I laughed it off, until one of my colleagues, looking at my car, remarked, ‘I hear you are going to Dobřejov. Why not? Mr. Karda has a tractor, so he'll be able to give you a tow’.

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

Indeed, it was a fateful journey – though completely the opposite from what I was expecting.

When I got to Dobřejov, our employee there, Mr. Karda, led me to the herd of mares. In the deep, fresh snow, with their heads bowed so typically and covered with their long, shaggy winter coat, very different from that of the Przewalski’s in Prague, they made a huge impression on me. It was as if, for a moment, I had been transported to the plains of Inner Asia.

Mr. Karda began to introduce me to the mares one by one. Kordula, Victoria, Queena, Uršula... He told me about their origins and their characters – and for some of them he added that they had been waiting for years to be transported to Mongolia. It was much the same a while later with the herd of stallions. Week after week and month after month the Przewalski’s in Dobřejov, with the mares separated from the stallions, had been waiting for the transport, with nobody knowing for sure when or if it would come at all.

If I hadn’t seen Kordula, Uršula, Lomax, Nepomuk and the other Przewalski’s horses on the freshly fallen snow in Czech Siberia, I would have reconciled myself with the fact that the transports, organized from Switzerland, had, in short, been halted and that there was nothing that could be done about it. From the office, it would have seemed the right thing to do. But in that snow-covered Dobřejov I felt the inklings of a yearning for the efforts to return the wild horses to Mongolia to continue – and that at least some of our Przewalski’s would get the chance to gallop through that endless landscape...

Six months and two weeks later, four of the Przewalski's horses – including Kordula – were already frolicking on Mongolian soil. We had transported them back to their original homeland in an army CASA plane. On Wednesday, June 16th, it will be a decade since that first “Return of the Wild Horses” took place.