Naya's journey to Mongolia: Hellabrunn-born Przewalski mare released into the wild

Last week, Naya, a Przewalski mare born at Hellabrunn Zoo, was one of four wild horses flown in a Czech military aircraft to Mongolia to be released into the wild. Under the Return of the Wild Horses project, Naya will first live in a wildlife enclosure for acclimatisation before eventually being released into the wild to boost the population of Mongolian Przewalski horses.

Copyright: Zoo Praha / Vaclav Silha

This is the seventh time Przewalski wild horses have travelled from Prague Zoo to Mongolia under the Return of the Wild Horses project  to be released in the wild. To date, the project has overseen the release of 27 horses into the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area. The horses were transported in cooperation with the Army of the Czech Republic, which provided military aircraft to transport the animals from the zoo in Prague. The journey from Prague to Mongolia took 24 hours and went smoothly for the four mares. Apart from Naya, who was transferred from Hellabrunn to Prague three years ago, the other mares on the flight were Romy from Leipzig Zoo, Chantou from Givskud Zoo in Denmark and Sarangua from Prague Zoo's breeding station in Dolní Dobřejov. Having landed in Mongolia, all four are now relaxing and exploring their new acclimatisation enclosure.

Previously listed as Extinct in the Wild, reintroduction projects have seen the Przewalski horse thrive in the wild thrive since 1996. Prior to this, the population in Mongolia was on the verge of extinction in the 1960s, with the last confirmed sighting of horses in Mongolia in 1969. It was only thanks to the coordinated efforts of the global zoo community that the world's only surviving species of wild horse could be saved from its total extinction.

Hellabrunn Zoo has been actively involved in several breeding and conservation projects for the endangered Przewalski horse throughout Europe for many years. In collaboration with its project partners, the zoo supports grazing projects in Tennenlohe, Hanau, Gießen and Augsburg, as well as in the Bavarian Forest National Park and the Hortobágy National Park in Hungary, where a considerable number of the wild horses, originally native to the steppes of Central Asia, are being cared for.

Thanks to the commitment of European zoos working under the European Endangered Species programme (EEP), the population of this once near-extinct wild horse species has grown to currently about 700 horses in 73 enclosures in Europe. Hellabrunn Zoo is home to six Przewalski horses.