SAN FRANCISCO - The last truly wild horse species in the world, rare Przewalski's horses, were once only found on the Mongolian steppes of the Gobi Desert. But on Tuesday at 10 a.m., they could be seen in a media preview at the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens.
Forty years ago, the species was listed as extinct in the wild. Thanks to coordinated captive breeding programs by accredited zoos and conservationists, the population of Przewalski's horses is now at 2,000, with some wild herds thriving in reintroduction sites and natural preserves.
Pronounced SHUL-VAAL-SKEE, the small stocky horse was named after a Russian explorer who identified the species during a Mongolian expedition in the 19th century.
The pair of mares, 17-year-old Solongo and 22-year-old Bajkit, will be arriving from Chicago's Brookfield Zoo. The San Diego Zoo, where Bajkit was born, has been a major supporter of the breeding program, with over 200 horses.
Nancy Chan, spokesperson for the San Francisco Zoo, said that there are only 12 founder animals in the breeding programs, and all 2,000 of their progeny have in some way come from those original horses.
"That was interesting, because they've got a lot of diminished genetic diversity," she said.
They will eventually be featured in a new Asian Conservation Zone at the zoo, which will include some of the flora and landscape features of Asia. The zoo has Asian animals like Komodo dragons, monkeys and snow leopards, but the renovation-to-come will place the animals from Asia together.
Guests can view the pair starting this weekend. They will live temporarily in a stable and field which previously housed other hoofstock by Bear Country.
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