Przewalski's horse foal takes first steps in conservation boost for the endangered species.
Zookeepers are celebrating the birth of an endangered Przewalski's foal at Whipsnade Zoo - the world’s last “truly wild” species of horse.
The pointy-eared foal was born on 13 April at the conservation zoo, as part of the European Endangered Species Programme for the species, and is just starting to stretch his legs and explore his surroundings.
Keepers had been monitoring the foal’s pregnant mum, Charlotte, and were delighted when she gave birth to the healthy foal in a secluded area of the 600-acre conservation zoo. Eagle-eyed visitors watching from a distance also glimpsed a sneak peek of the wobbling youngster standing up for the first time.
Zookeeper Luke Pharoah said: “Our team filmed the youngster’s first tentative steps moments after being born, which gave us all an immense feeling of hope for this Endangered species.”
Przewalski's horses (Equus przewalskii) were classified as Extinct-in-the-Wild until horses bred at Whipsnade Zoo were successfully reintroduced to Mongolia as part of a collaborative conservation project between Mongolian and UK ZSL scientists to save the species. There are now hundreds of wild Przewalski's horses living in the grasslands and deserts of Mongolia, Ukraine and China, and their population is increasing. As a result of reintroduction projects, the IUCN Red List reclassified the Przewalski's horse as Critically Endangered in 2008, and then again as Endangered in 2011.
Unlike other species of horse that are sometimes described as ‘wild’, the Przewalski's horse is the only species considered by conservationists to be truly wild, rather than simply “feral”, as it is not descended from domesticated horses.
The team sent photos of the foal to ZSL conservationists working in Mongolia, who named the brown and white youngster Luujin (pronounced Lor-jin), meaning “compass”.
ZSL’s Mongolia Country Director Tungaa Ulambayar said: “Luujin’s name symbolises moving in the right direction for this species – from Extinct-in-the-Wild to roaming in their native habitat once more, which is an incredible collective achievement for conservationists. Luujin is a reminder of the incredible potential of conservation zoos to bring species - quite literally - back from the brink of extinction.”
Luke added: “We are delighted to have boosted the population of these incredible, Endangered animals – the last remaining species of truly wild horse left in the world.
“While we monitored Charlotte’s pregnancy carefully, we also knew that, as an experienced mum, she would know exactly what to do. She’s been naturally very protective of Luujin, nudging him along gently in the spring sunshine, so we’ve kept our distance and have been delighted to see that he is suckling and developing well.
“After his wobbly first steps, Luujin is now just starting to stretch his legs and try to gallop - visitors to our conservation zoo will be able to watch him finding his feet with the rest of the herd this spring.”
Visitors can see Luujin alongside 10,000 other animals at Whipsnade Zoo this April – find out more about the conservation zoo’s vital work protecting species.