Fifth return of the wild horses

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  07. 07. 2015

Done for the fifth time, it should have been routine - but transporting wild horses across a quarter of the globe is never a routine. Again we had to face expected and unexpected problems.

One third of the joureny from Bulgan Sum to Tachin Tal was out of tarmac roads. Photo Zoo Prague One third of the joureny from Bulgan Sum to Tachin Tal was out of tarmac roads. Photo Zoo Prague

Many months ahead we started bringing mares, suitable for the transportation to Mongolia, from different parts of Europe, and collected them in our breeding and acclimatization station in Dolní Dobřejov. In the end it was Paradise from France, Kírá from Hungary and Dash and Rabea from Germany, who ended up in the narrowest selection. Together with them two mares, born in Prague, were among the last six: four-year-old Primula and three-year-old Querida.

When our colleagues were leaving for Mongolia to prepare all the necessary arrangements at the place, Dash dropped out, she turned not to be suitable for the transport to Mongolia. But at that time we were facing different problems. Jaroslav Šimek sent photos of rivers out of their beds and flooded semi desert in Gobi B. Torrential rains caused floods even in places, where nobody would expect them, which threatened landing of our plane on the unpaved air strip in Bulgan Sum as well as the terrestrial transport of the horses to Tachin Tal. With higher intensity we started preparations for landing at a distant standby airport in Khovd and a long journey with our mares loaded on trucks. Fortunately during recent years Chinese built new tarmac roads in western Mongolia, it would not be imaginable to transport horses from Khovd to Tachin Tal without them.  

In Mongolia we were bothered by rains and floods, while in Czech Republic it were concerns about heat. Even relatively short journey from Dolní Dobřejov to the army airport in Prague - Kbely could be killing for the mares, if the trucks became stuck in a traffic jam. The mares in the crates under a canvas would get overheated. So we obtained air conditioning units and made an agreement with the traffic police on cooperation.

Loading on the mares started on Saturday morning in Dolní Dobřejov. Kírá was put in the crate with no problems, but Querida, who came the second, caused us a nervousness; she did not want to fell asleep for a long time and Roman Vodička had to increase the dose of anaesthetic. On the other side, Rabea, who we were afraid of, got into the crate with no problems. And loading of the fourth one, Paradise, went smoothly as well. I felt sorry that Primula, born in Prague, staid in the role of substitute. The wish for safe journey to Asia, sent by her godmother, Czech actress Jiřina Bohdalová, was of no use.

At the hot Saturday morning the Benešov road was hopelessly jammed - yet only in the direction out of Prague. To prevent the mares get overheated at the airport, we transferred them from the truck to the aircraft in the hangar; firemen were cooling the area in front of it by jets of water. On Saturday before half past two, shortly before the planned time, CASA with the mares on the board took off. At that time we were getting good news from Mongolia. The air strip in Bulgan dried out and landing was possible there.

The flight went as usual. The mares were getting water and a bit of hay and carrot, more to get distracted than fed; sometimes the plane was shaken by their kicking. The air conditioning was running at full blast, so there was only 8 degrees in the cabin, and Bára Dobiášová and Honza Marek were attaching fans to the crates by turns. It seemed that the long and uncomfortable journey would go without complications. But during the flight between Kazan and Novosibirsk Rabea smashed the last segment of Bára´s thumb. So after landing the ambulance was already waiting at the runway. We had soon decided that rather than risking possible complications, we should leave Bára in Novosibirsk together with Honza to accompany her.    

After some bureaucratic misunderstandings we got one and half hour delay and the cloudy sky was raising a question how it would look in Bulgan Sum. Finally we were lucky. The sky cleared out, so we could land according to our plan; but at the same time the sun was not beating down. Ideal conditions for the last stage of the transport of the horses. But even this one took more time than usual. The damages, caused by floods, led to a one hundred kilometres detour, so instead of 200 km we had to drive 300 km. Finally on Monday after 1 am local time we were on the spot, in Tachin Tal, future home of our four mares.

One after another they run out to the light of spotlights and then disappeared in the darkness of the acclimatization enclosure. Although their transport took longer than usual, they were in an excellent condition. In spite of all the problems the fifth year of Return of the Wild Horses ended in success.

Greetings from Tachin Tal to all, especially in Prague, Dolní Dořejov and Novosibirsk!

Miroslav Bobek, Director, Prague Zoo

Fifth return of the wild horses