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'Extinct' wild horse roams again
By Charles Clover

The wild horse has been saved from extinction after a successful programme to reintroduce captive-bred horses to their natural habitat in Mongolia.

A working group of scientists at London Zoo has now recommended Przewalski's horse, previously characterized as "extinct" in the wild, that should now be listed as "endangered".

It is a rare case of a species climbing away from extinction. If the new status is accepted by IUCN, the World Conservation Union, scientists say it will be a milestone for large mammal conservation.

In 1945, there were only 31 of Przewalski's horses in captivity, but by the early 1990s there were more than 1,500, and reintroductions began in their harsh native environment in Mongolia.

Nick Lindsay, of the Zoological Society of London, said: "There were concerns that, having bred for 13 generations in captivity, the animals would not be able to survive in the wild.

"However, there are now 248 free-ranging Przewalski's horses in the wild, a factor which has resulted in their remarkable status reclassification."

Przewalski's is the only true wild horse and is genetically dissimilar to the domestic horse, having a different number of chromosomes. It was discovered by a Russian, Col Nikolai Przewalski, in 1879.

It was hunted heavily by local people from the 17th century and its extinction in the wild came through further hunting at the end of the Second World War. The decline was exacerbated through agriculture in its natural habitat.

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