Satellite tracking of Asian horses in Kalameili Reserve, China

Asian wild horses were extinct in the wild by the mid-1970s. The remaining captive population is based on only 14 founders. Reintroduction projects are underway in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and China. The most significant obstacles to reintroduction are: (a) interbreeding with domestic horses; (b) poaching; (c) poor habitat due to livestock competition; and (d) high winter mortality.

China’s Wild Horse Breeding Center (WHBC) has been developing a captive breeding population of wild horses since the mid-1980s. Several transfers of horses from the U.S., England, and Germany, followed by successful captive breeding, have allowed the herd to grow to more than 100 animals. Twenty-six horses were released in Kalameili Reserve in the Gobi Desert in 2001. Although several horses from the initial release died (after a harsh winter) the remaining population has since reproduced and appears healthy. A second release is planned.

In 2006, the Minnesota Zoo Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Fund provided funds to purchase a GPS satellite radio collar to allow tracking of a horse in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Zoo’s release and tracking project in China. The Minnesota Zoo has imported the two breeding mares, Loretta and Aliana, from the zoo in Köln, Germany. They are the mothers of the two foals born here in 2008.

Takhin Tal, another Mongolian reserve, has also released more than 40 Asian wild horses.

As of 2008, there are some 325 Asian wild horses once again roaming the wild steppes of Asia, thanks to the species-saving efforts of zoos and preservation groups and their captive breeding and reintroduction programs.