Current Affairs Colts instead of rifles: NGO to introduce wild horses at former army bases
In the future visitors to the Czech countryside could come across a species not seen in this part of the world for a great many years: wild horses. A local wildlife organisation is at present preparing to import a small group of Exmoor ponies, with a view to eventually introducing the hardy British breed to former army training areas and unforested land in other remote parts of the country.
The NGO Česká krajina (Czech Landscape) recently purchased five Exmoor ponies from Bavaria and will receive a dozen more from a partner organisation in the Netherlands in the spring. The organisation plans to gradually introduce them into the wild in the Czech Republic, where, as elsewhere in Europe, such horses were previously displaced when mankind began breeding domestic varieties.
The man behind the idea, Česká krajina’s Dalibor Dostál, explains why the Exmoor pony – which comes from the moorlands of southwest England – is the ideal horse for the project.
“Experts agree that they are one of the breeds that are closest to the horses wiped out here. They say that the breed has barely changed since the end of the Ice Age. This means that they are capable of adapting to existence in the wild; they have all the prerequisites to return to the wild in 15 or 20 years under our programme.”
Between now and their eventual complete release, the Exmoor ponies will be kept in a semi-wild reserve, where their progress can be monitored by experts and they can adapt to their environment. The weed-eating horses will also bring marked benefits to that environment, says Mr. Dostál, outlining the chief objective of the project.
“At present, hundreds of types of flora and fauna linked to meadows and natural pastures are dying out in the Czech Republic. Because currently there are no species such as wild horses in that natural ecosystem that would maintain those unforested areas – and many rare species are disappearing.”
Česká krajina is set to discuss with representatives of the Czech Army the introduction of the Exmoor ponies onto disused military properties. One site tipped is the Brdy base in Central Bohemia, which a few years ago was in the news as the planned location of a U.S. anti-missile radar.
“Next week we will hold talks with the General Staff of the Czech Army, because extensive unforested lands with a great number of rare species have been preserved at former military areas, where the army has either reduced its activities or moved out all together. There is a risk that if species such as wild horses or bison don’t return to those unforested localities, they will become overgrown and we’ll lose many species that live there.”
Dalibor Dostál says he is optimistic the army brass will agree to his proposal, adding that there has been huge interest in the project from horse breeders and enthusiasts since the story has been in the news.