Monday, December 19, 2005

Przewalski's horse returns

Another species has been reclaimed from extinction, this time through human efforts. The Daily Telegraph reports:


A working group of scientists at London Zoo has now recommended that Przewalski's horse, previously characterised as "extinct" in the wild, should now be listed as "endangered".

It is a rare case of a species climbing away from extinction. If the new status is accepted by IUCN, the World Conservation Union, scientists say it will be a milestone for large mammal conservation.

In 1945, there were only 31 of Przewalski's horses in captivity, but by the early 1990s there were more than 1,500, and reintroductions began in their harsh native environment in Mongolia.

Przewalski's is the only true wild horse and is genetically dissimilar to the domestic horse, having a different number of chromosomes. It was discovered [presumably they mean 'described'] by a Russian, Col Nikolai Przewalski, in 1879.

It was hunted heavily by local people from the 17th century and its extinction in the wild came through further hunting at the end of the Second World War. The decline was exacerbated through agriculture in its natural habitat.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government announced that it would be spending $680,000 to expand a breeding centre for the horses.

There are lots of pictures and videos of these gorgeous animals at
ARKive.

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