On Wednesday, November 2, the El Paso Zoo will prepare to receive a female Przewalski’s horse from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C.
The female horse will join Vitalis, one of the El Paso Zoo’s two male Przewalski’s horses, and they will become the zoo’s first breeding pair of Przewalski’s horses.
In anticipation of the arrival of the female horse, the El Paso Zoo will transfer Vladimir, the zoo’s other male Przewalski’s horse, to the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, North Dakota,
where he will also become part of a breeding pair.
“It is a huge privilege for the El Paso Zoo to have such an important role in saving the Przewalski’s horse,” said El Paso Zoo Director Steve Marshall. “We are incredibly thankful for the support of the community, which has allowed us to continue furthering our mission to protect and conserve endangered species.”
The transfer comes as a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whose Species Survival Plan® (SSP) works to conserve species such as the Przewalski’s horse through breeding and transfer plans.
These plans are designed to empower accredited zoos, such as the El Paso Zoo, to protect and breed endangered animals in order to save them from extinction.
Przewalski’s horses, also called Asian wild horses, are the only truly wild horses remaining in the world. Muscular and stocky, these horses were declared extinct in the wild in the 1960s due to over-hunting and encroaching human settlements. Through the collaborative efforts of AZA-accredited zoos and conservation partners, hundreds of Przewalski’s horses have now begun returning to the wild.
While there are still threats to the Przewalski’s horse’s survival, including climate change and overgrazing by domestic animals, active conservation strategies and breeding initiatives such as these will help ensure a stable, genetically-diverse population that will roam the wild for years to come.