Przewalski horses had disappeared from the Mongolian steppes by the 1970s but Claudia Feh led one of several initiatives reintroducing them to the habitat they had ranged for centuries – and improved the lives of local nomads in the process.
In 2004, Claudia Feh, an expert on social behaviour of free-living horses, raised a herd of Przewalski horses in France and reintroduced some of them to their natural habitat. The horses – known as takhi in Mongolia and considered man’s messenger to the gods and a sacred idol – were not the only beneficiaries of her expertise and enterprise. Her project has also helped improve the lives of local nomads by enabling them to boost their income.
I’ve always been interested in free-living horses, and the Przewalski is the world’s last truly wild horse.
Feh’s Rolex Award-winning Wild Horse Mesh project provided the nomads and international and Mongolian scientists with a unique opportunity to exchange knowledge at a multidisciplinary information centre. They also worked together on protecting the environment. Annual herder forums and summer schools for children continue at the centre to this day.
On the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List the Przewalski horse has moved from extinct in the wild to critically endangered and then to endangered. The project’s horse population has more than doubled in little more than a decade, increasing from 22 to 60 individuals. Partly due to Feh’s continued initiatives, a general management plan for Przewalski horses in Mongolia is likely to be implemented by the Ministry of the Environment.
Horses living free in Mongolia