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The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Frank Sartor, today announced Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s first newborn for the year – a shy and long-legged Przewalski’s Horse foal.

“The foal is the 34th born to the Zoo’s breeding program for this critically endangered species, which became extinct in the wild in 1968,” Mr Sartor said.

“It is through breeding programs such as the one at Taronga Western Plains Zoo that the Przewalski’s Horse has been introduced back into its native Mongolia and has any hope of escaping extinction.”

The foal, a male named Bataar (meaning hero in Mongolian), was born overnight, with Zoo Keepers arriving on Saturday 9 January to the welcome sight of mother and calf in their home-range paddock.

“We knew that first-time mother Nalayh was very close to delivering, so the entire herd was given access to the paddock overnight,” Keeper Todd Jenkinson said.

“When we arrived on Saturday morning it was a delight to see Nalayh and her new foal both in good health. Bataar was standing and suckling and Nalayh was doing all the right things. Her maternal instincts have really kicked in, she is extremely protective of her offspring and very attentive to him, which is great to see.”

Przewalski’s Horse foal

Bataar is also the first foal for father Viktor, who was transferred to Taronga Western Plains Zoo from Werribee Zoo in 2008 to add important genetic diversification to the Zoo’s herd. When Bataar is 12 months of age, he will be fully weaned and will either join Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s breeding program or that of another Zoo.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo has had many successes with its Przewalski’s Horse breeding program since commencement in 1982. In June 1995, the Zoo sent five mares along with others from Australia and Europe to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia where they were reintroduced into the wild.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo Supervisor Todd Jenkinson has received a fellowship to head to Mongolia later this year to Hustai Nuruu National Park, to observe a very successful breed-and-release program for the species established by The Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski‘s Horse and the Institute for Animal Morphology and Ecology of Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

“I am really looking forward to going to Mongolia and seeing how successful a captive breed-and-release program can be,” Todd said. “The population at Hustai Nuruu National Park has reached 195 (Nov 07) and in 2008, the status of the Przewalski’s Horse was reclassified from extinct in the wild to critically endangered. The program is certainly going ahead in leaps and bounds and although there’s a long way to go it will be very exciting to see first-hand what has been achieved to date.”

The Przewalski’s Horse was discovered in 1869 and is considered to be the only surviving species of wild horse. Although they are physically resilient, it is believed that their numbers decreased so dramatically due to competition for food and water and hunting pressures.

Visitors to Taronga Western plains Zoo can see this rare and remarkable species on display every day from 9.00am to 4.00pm. For further information please visit www.taronga.org.au.

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