Wild horses return to the Mongolian steppes

GREAT GOBI B, Mongolia (Reuters) - A quarter-century-old project to repopulate the steppes of Mongolia with wild horses was kept alive as four animals made the long trip back to their ancestral home from Prague Zoo.

Driven to extinction in their homeland in the 1960s, the

survived in captivity before efforts began to re-introduce them to the arid desert and mountains along Mongolia's border with China.

Zoos organized the first transport to Mongolia of the strong, stocky beasts in 1992.

See the horses return below:

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Repopulating the Mongolian Steppes
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Repopulating the Mongolian Steppes
A Przewalski's horse peers out of a container on the way to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
Prague Zoo workers load a container with a Przewalski's horse into a Czech military airplane at Kbely Airport in Prague, Czech Republic, June 19, 2017. Picture taken June 19, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
Prague Zoo workers load a container with a Przewalski's horse into a Czech military airplane at Kbely Airport in Prague, Czech Republic, June 19, 2017. Picture taken June 19, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
Trucks carrying Przewalski's horses drive to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
Trucks carrying Przewalski's horses drive to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
A camel walks past a truck carrying Przewalski's horses on the way to Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
A Przewalski's horse leaves its container after being released in Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
A Przewalski's horse leaves its container after being released in Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A veterinary doctor covers a tranquilised Przewalski's horse from a sun at the acclimatisation enclosure in the village of Dolni Dobrejov near the city of Tabor, Czech Republic, June 18, 2017. Picture taken June 18, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
An endangered Przewalski's horse trots across the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 22, 2017. Picture taken June 22, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
A Przewalski's horse stands at the acclimatisation enclosure in the early morning hours at the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 23, 2017. Picture taken June 23, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
The "Milky Way" is seen across the sky in the early morning hours at the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 23, 2017. Picture taken June 23, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
Przewalski's horses graze at the acclimatisation enclosure in the early morning hours at the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 23, 2017. Picture taken June 23, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Camels stand on a desert near the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
An endangered Przewalski's horse stands at the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 21, 2017. Picture taken June 21, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
Przewalski's horses graze at the acclimatisation enclosure in the early morning hours at the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 23, 2017. Picture taken June 23, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
A herd of endangered Przewalski's horses walk across the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 21, 2017. Picture taken June 21, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
A herd of endangered Przewalski's horses walk across theTakhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 21, 2017. Picture taken June 21, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
A herd of endangered Przewalski's horses trot across the Takhin Tal National Park, part of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, in south-west Mongolia, June 22, 2017. Picture taken June 22, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny
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For the past decade, Prague Zoo has been the only one continuing that tradition and it holds the studbook of a species whose ancestors - unlike other free-roaming horses such as the wild mustangs of the United States - were never domesticated.

The zoo completed its seventh transport last week, releasing four mares born in captivity in the Czech Republic, Germany and Denmark in the Gobi desert. They will spend the next year in an enclosed area to acclimatize before being freed.

"All the mares are looking very well, they are not hobbling, they are calm, eating hay and trying to test the taste of the new grass," Prague Zoo veterinarian Roman Vodicka said after making observations a few days after the release.

Prague has released 27 horses in total and officials estimate around 190 are now back in the wild in the Gobi B park, where the most recent arrivals were sent.

(Reporting by Jiri Skacel; Writing by Jason Hovet)

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