An endangered breed of horses that was once declared extinct is being reintroduced to the wild in Russia.

Six Przewalski’s horses born at a reserve in the south of France have recently been flown to the Russian steppes.

Scientists eventually hope to have 100 of the horses on the protected 40-acre site in the Orenburg Reserves.

Przewalski’s horse expert Tatjana Zharkikh, who heads the project, said the horses have been adjusting well to their new surroundings.

The breed was declared extinct in the wild in the 1970s, but through co-operative breeding programmes, was bred in captivity and protected.

Work then began to reintroduce them to their native Mongolian habitat. There have been several reintroduction projects in China and Mongolia (news, 16 January, 2002).

Following the success of these projects, the horses were classed as critically endangered, before their status was revised to endangered in 2011.

“It is wonderful that the Russians are providing this large protected area to release Przewalski’s horses,” said Adrian Harland, animal director at Port Lympne Reserve in Kent.

The reserve sent 10 of the horses to China in 1992 for release in the Anxi Gobi Nature Reserve, and a mare to join a European herd that was released in Mongolia in 1996. Two foals were born at the Kent-based reserve in August 2015 and the team intend to continue to offer horses for reintroduction where suitable.

“These are the last truly wild horses and it is great to be involved in such a determined project to re-establish them where they should be — roaming free on the Eurasian Steppe,” added Mr Harland.

Ref: Horse and Hound, 17 March 2016