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Running Wild

On March 31, 1839, Russian military explorer Nikolai Przewalski was born. A curious boy who wanted to travel, he realized early that his best chances for this were increased if he joined the army; the army travelled!

When he finally became a commissioned officer, he wrote reports on the regions in which he served. At his proposal, the Russian Geographical Society engaged him to explore a central Siberian river basin. It took him two years to complete but he was rewarded with other assignments. Przewalski accepted ever-longer exploratory missions to central and eastern Asia from which he would return with bales of specimens and artifacts and write another report. He became a principal source of information and knowledge of the plant and animal life of central Asia. He wrote five books about his travels and observations. Among his discoveries were the first descriptions and specimens of Przewalski’s Gazelle and Przewalski’s Horse.

Przewalski’s Gazelle or Mongolian Gazelle is a small, slender antelope that lives in semi-desert grasslands of Mongolia’s Hustai National Park and in basin areas around Qinghai Hu Lake in northwestern China. In both Mongolia and China’s Qinghai province, these endangered gazelle populations are under observation of researchers.

Przewalski’s Horse, takh in Mongolian, is the last remaining truly wild species of equines. It has acute senses of smell and hearing – important attributes in horses that stand not much higher than 1.3 m (4 ft). These wild horses are stocky in body, large-jawed, and thick-necked with short, upright manes. From the 1960’s, the takhi-Przewalskii Horse was not seen in the wild for almost 40 years. They lived in a few private preserves.

From original wild Przewalskis found in some zoos, the Przewalski Foundation and the Mongolian government have led successful efforts to reintroduce this species to the semi-desert grasslands of the Hustai National Park.

Now a UNESCO Bioshpere Reserve, the Hustai Center welcomes researchers and volunteers from around the world into this richly biodiverse ecosystem. The eco-volunteer program integrates biology and ecology studies of its horse as well as steppe ecosystem – a belt of relatively undisturbed Palearctic temperate grasslands and shrublands biome that forms a crescent around the barren gravel plains and rocky outcrops of the Gobi Desert.

Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii remains on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage