The Asian Wild Horse Species Survival Plan launched the True Wild Horse campaign in 2014 to raise awareness about Asian wild horses and funding for their conservation!

The Species Survival Plan helps to ensure the survival of the Asian wild horse through cooperative breeding with all North American zoos and aquariums, maintaining a genetically diverse and demographically stable population.

Learn about the projects we’re helping!

The True Wild Horse campaign is fully endorsed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Asian Wild Horse Species Survival Plan and the AZA Equid Taxon Advisory Group (TAG).

Background

The Asian Wild Horse is the last of the true wild horses on the planet. Unlike mustangs or other feral horses, the Asian Wild Horse is a truly wild animal that has never been domesticated by humans.   They have lived on the grassland steppes of Europe, Central Asia, and China for millennia.  Historical reports describe the famous emperor, Genghis Kahn, encountering this wild horse while on his expeditions to expand the Mongol empire in 1226, causing his horse to rear and throw him to the ground.  Cave paintings in France, Italy, and Spain that closely resemble the species date back to 20,000 BC.  Recent genetic research has discovered that this species has existed since at least 36,000 BC and maybe as long as 70,000 BC.

The primitive populations of Asian wild horses fluctuated several times during episodes of severe climatic changes.  However, they always survived to adapt and flourish until humans drove them to complete extinction in the wild by the late 1960’s.  Thankfully, horses were collected from the wild before they disappeared entirely.  Over the next several decades, these animals were successfully bred in human care and eventually released back into the wild.

Though still rare, thanks to the dedication and collaboration of NGO’s, zoos, range country governments, and field conservationists, the Asian wild horse has now returned from the brink of extinction and is once again running free in the Asian steppes. Reintroduction efforts have been underway since 1992 in Mongolia and since 2001 in China. There have also been small reintroductions in Russia and near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Currently, there are only an estimated 500 individuals in the wild.  Due to recent reintroduction projects and protection efforts, the status of this species has been upgraded from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered” by the International Union of Conservation and Nature (IUCN).

The future for the Asian Wild Horse looks bright.  From 14 animals, this species has returned from near extinction.  We can look back with pride on what has been accomplished.  However, more work needs to be done to insure the survival of the Asian Wild Horse, the last of the true wild horses.

 

The Asian Wild Horse and the Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo’s mission is to connect people, animals and the natural world to save wildlife. All Zoo activities are directed toward the three cornerstones that support the mission: conservation, education, and recreation.

The Minnesota Zoo has been involved in Asian Wild Horse population management since our founding in 1978.  Since then, 44 foals have been born at the Minnesota Zoo, and today, we are home to several  Asian Wild Horses.

In 1990, the Minnesota Zoo sent a stallion named “Amraa” to the Netherlands to be a breeding founder for a population of Asian wild horses to be reintroduced to the wild.  It is estimated that Amraa has 196 descendants and that 82 of those are still alive in Hustai National Park in Mongolia.

The Minnesota Zoo has financially supported Asian Wild Horse conservation in 2004 in Mongolia and in 2006 and 2012 in China.  In 2012, the Minnesota Zoo’s Animal Collection Manager Tony Fisher assumed responsibility for the Asian Wild Horse Species Survival Plan (SSP).  This has motivated the Zoo to become more active and a larger player in external conservation efforts for the species.  In 2013, a formal agreement was adopted between the Minnesota Zoo, Hustai National Park in Mongolia, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to work collaboratively on conservation efforts for the Asian Wild Horse.