Volunteering for Przewalski horse reintroduction in Mongolia.
The Przewalski's Horse or Takhi as the Mongolians call it, is a rather small, sturdy animal with a short, strong neck. Apart from a dark stripe running along the spine, its body is sand-colored. The mane and tail are dark brown and the legs show zebra stripes.
Przewalski's horses have become extinct as the last really wild horse in the world. The final blow came in 1969 when the last wild Takhi was seen. Fortunately, there were still enough horses left, because people had captured them for private collections at the beginning of this century. The Foundation Reserves Przewalski's Horse, founded in 1977, keeps a detailed database on all individual captive Przewalski's horses that ever lived. With this information system, responsible breeding became possible.
It is exciting to notice that the reintroduced Takhi do very well in their 'new' natural environment. Already many tens of foals have already been born in Mongolia. And for instance, when faced with wolves, the adult horses surround the young and finally drive the predators away. Nevertheless, wolves sometimes manage to prey on foals and these events are very emotional for the conservationists and the volunteers. Life is harsh in the wild.
Several groups of horses have already been released in the reserve, after being kept under semi-wild conditions in acclimatization areas. The fifth and last transport of a group of horses to Mongolia has been earlier this year. These 'harems' are monitored to make sure that they adjust to their new environment and to get a better insight into their behavior. This is necessary, because we still know very little about the Przewalski's Horses.
We hope that the research will help us to establish a population, which can fend for itself. Therefore, we need all the data we can get, which means that as an ecovolunteer you will get an exciting opportunity to live and work midst these fascinating animals. On top of that, you will learn more about the unique biological diversity and the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the area.
Your activities will mainly consist of taking long walks and sometimes-long rides on horseback to reach the harems when necessary. Horse riding in Mongolia on small Mongolian horses is a different riding technique, as you might know, from that of western countries: some horse riding training might be necessary, once you are in Mongolia, depending on your experience.
Quotation from a Dutch ecovolunteer:
The harems each need a different approach. For instance, Ares is a fierce stallion. He attacks visitors. In a tearing rage he runs towards them, his ears pointing backwards. He turns right in front of the visitors. He watches them closely.
As soon as a stallion looks in your direction, just sit down. Usually then everything is o.k. Several times a stallion 'accidentally' happened to walk in our direction, to cross our path a few times at 15 metres in front of us before leaving again. We were tolerated by the stallion, at that distance from his harem.
Also it might happen that the harem migrated and the stallion took position between us and the harem so that we were not able to follow untill the stallion did leave. This all happened very naturally, almost accidently, but if you move too early, the stallion confronts you directly, looking you straight in the eyes. When immediately responding like a good girl should, by sitting down on the ground or by walking in another direction, then everything is o.k. again. No doubt about it: out here the stallion rules.
Quotation from a letter from a British participant:
At my new trainee post I got free access to the Internet which means that I simply had to 'come around'. So, when I saw the pictures of the reserve and of the horses (Paritet!) tears welled up in my eyes. It brought me straight back to Hustai. Both my friend and I have been infected with the most severe form of 'Mongolia homesickness' you can imagine. We were having a splendid time over there, and did enjoy every little bit of it! Often I see my self again sitting on a rock in the warm sun observing Bohemian or Paritet (and their consecutive harems, of course!). Or that time when we spotted a wolf, or when we went to the cattle branding feast of the herdsmen in the Tuul Valley. Well, I really could go on for hours.
You can freely download an extensive file on the Przewalski horse reintroduction project from the website: www.ecovolunteer.org.uk
For information in the United Kingdom: Atlantida Travel Ltd.; E-mail: ecovolunteerATL@aol.com; Phone: 0207 240 6604 / 2888; Fax: 0207 240 5795.
Please note that there are certain costs to participants. Full details from www.ecovolunteer.org.uk