A new Przewalski’s foal was born at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in England, helping to preserve a species that was once extinct in the wild. The male foal was born on October 26 and was photographed taking his first steps. Przewalski’s Horses, the only truly wild horse in existence today, has been reintroduced into the wild, thanks to cooperative breeding programs enacted by zoos.
Przewalski’s Horse - Equus prjevalskii [disputed, generally accepted as Equus ferus przewalskii]
The Przewalski’s horse, or takhi, is the only “true” wild horse remaining in the world, and is distinct from Equus ferus caballus, the domesticated horse. Though Przewalski’s horses and domesticated horses can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, the Przewalski’s horse has an extra pair of chromosomes, distinctive dentition, and a convex profile (“Roman nose”) uncommon in most breeds of domestic horse. The subspecies is believed to have diverged from Equus ferus ferus around 125,000 years ago, but the two groups interbred for at least 25,000 years before true geographical isolation began.
The discovery of the takhi in the Mongolian steppes in 1881 was followed by the collection of entire herds through hunting and rounding up to be kept in zoos. The last wild herd was spotted in 1967, and the last individual was spotted in 1969. The most genetically diverse captive herd (living in Askania-Nova in Ukraine) was slaughtered by former German soldiers in the late 1940s for unknown reasons.
Fortunately for conservation efforts, the very few individuals remaining in the world by 1977, when the species was declared “Extinct in the Wild”, proved to be very healthy, at least in terms of genetic vitality. Careful breeding programs started by the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski’s Horse(FPPPH) in that same year ensured that the genetic diversity remained as strong as possible, given the tiny population. Twelve to fifteen individuals managed to produce small herds in several zoos and preserves, and the population grew at a steady pace for a decade and a half, before the first individuals were re-introduced to the wild, in 1992. Despite
After that first herd of 16 genetically distinct individuals from several zoos was introduced into the Gobi Desert, and successfully formed a herd with numerous healthy foals, Przewalski’s horse was re-classified from “Extinct in the Wild” to “Critically Endangered”. As of 2008, three stable-and-growing herds exist in the wild, in Mongolia and the prohibited-access zone around Chernobyl, Ukraine (a surprisingly good wildlife preserve!). They’re currently considered “Endangered”, and their population outlook is positive, with genetic diversity programs continuing in both zoos and the wild herds.
Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1902.
In a huge breakthrough for the survival of an endangered species, the first Przewalski’s Horse to be born via artificial insemination was delivered at the National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) on July 27.
Learn more about this breakthrough along with more photos at ZooBorns!
First Wild Horse Born from Artificial Insemination at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
August 1, 2013 - Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are celebrating the birth of a female Przewalski’s (Cha-VAL-skee) horse—the first to be born via artificial insemination. The foal’s birth on July 27 signals a huge breakthrough for the survival of this species. SCBI reproductive physiologist Budhan Pukazhenthi and the Przewalski’s horse husbandry team spent seven years working closely with experts at The Wilds and Auburn University in Alabama to perfect the technique of assisted breeding. Both the filly and the first-time mother Anne are in good health and bonding.
“It seems reasonable to assume that reproduction for the Przewalski’s horse would be similar to domestic horses, but it simply isn’t the case,” said Pukazhenthi. “After all these years of persevering, I can honestly say I was elated to receive the call informing me that the foal had been born. I couldn’t wait to see her! This is a major accomplishment, and we hope our success will stimulate more interest in studying and conserving endangered equids around the world.”…
I went to the zoo earlier with my family to spend one last day together before my brother and I headed off to Thailand. Of course, seeing these gorgeous Przewalski mares up close and personal was my favorite part :)
新 年快乐！Friday (1/31/14) was Chinese New Year, and we are celebrating the Year of the Horse—Przewalski’s horse, that is! On July 27 last year, we celebrated the birth of a beautiful filly born to mare Anne at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. She is the first of her species to be born via artificial insemination and thrive—a scientific breakthrough by SCBI scientists and collaborators.
Since we last updated you, our filly has experienced her first snow, met her half-brother, and started training with keepers. Next, we’ll give her a name!