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Published: August 9th 2019
Last days Ulaanbaatar was completely empty. But now we know where all the cars are. They are here. On the road heading to Hustai National Park, about 100 kilometers west of Ulaanbaatar. Normally it is one and a half hour driving. Now it takes more than two hours.
In the past Hustai was a hunting ground for the last Kahns. Later communist leaders came in for the same purpose. Nowadays hunting is strictly forbidden. The parc houses the last wild horses in the world. The Takhi as the Mongolians say (pronunciation like in technology). We call them Przewalski horses.
After two and a half hours driving we turn left. Following a sandroad of 13 kilometers we arrive at the entrance. The tickets cost 25.000 tögrög each, which is about 8 Euro.
In the visitors centre there is good information about the parc and specially about the horses. It tells how colonel Przewalksi of the Russian army proved the existence of wild horses in Mongolia. That was in 1880. That between 1897 – 1903 foreign expeditions caught 88 of them in the Gobi desert and brought them to Europe. Only 54 survived the transport. Of these 54 horses only
12 had influence on the present breeding stock.
It tells that the horses were almost extinct because of hunting and the harsh winters of 1944 and 1956. That the last wild Przewalski horse was seen in 1969. That several expeditions tried to find them but that none of them succeeded.
A black and white picture shows Inge and Jan Bouman, the Dutch couple who founded the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski’s Horse (FPPPH) in 1977. They made a studbook inventory system, based on population genetics. In 1980 the horse breeding program was started.
Nowadays there are 2000 Przewalski horses in zoos, semireserves and reintroduction sites all over the world. They all came from 12 horses, which means that the inbreeding coefficient increased, the diversity decreased and the life expectancy shortened. In 1992 the first 15 horses were brought to Hustai National Park from the Netherlands. Nowadays there are 380 Przewalski horses.
To see the horses we have to drive 15 kilometers into the parc. The landscape reminds me of Scotland. There are no trees or shrubs. Just grasses and blue and yellow flowers (see pictures). In between Bobac marmots bigger than rabbits
hide away. Amur falcons are circling in the sky. Every now and then Mongolian larks fly up just before our car. Far away at the slopes of the hill we spot some red deer.
We walk a little over the hills. When our feet touch the plants we smell a scent of wormwood. And then they are there: a stallion with his harem. Some foals hide away between the mares. We count four of them.
The horses look a bit different then our domestic horses. They are smaller. Their manes are short in a right line. The base of the tail hardly have hairs. They all have the same color, a result of natural selection. While domestic horses have a variety of colors as a result of artificial selection.
On our way back the road is blocked by another group of Przewalski’s. They drink water in the tire tracks of the sand road. And also here we see several foals. That is good news. The population Przewalski horses is growing! Below you find some pictures of plants we saw in Hustai NP. We used "Flowers of Mongolia" by Michael H. Hauck to find the names. If you like to read some background of our trip to Mongolia please go to https://www.trefpuntazie.com/mongolie-amazones/
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