Wild horses may save threatened butterflies One of the 14 wild mares from Britains Exmoor National Park rests in an enclosure near the village of Milovice, Czech Republic (AP photos)
Wild horses may save threatened butterflies
Lexile

Twenty-five years ago, it was a military zone. It's where occupying Soviet troops held exercises. Today it's a sanctuary. Wild animals live there. Scientists hope those animals will improve biodiversity among local plants as well as save endangered species.

A herd of 14 wild mares from Britain's Exmoor National Park were moved in January to the former Milovice military base. It's 22 miles northeast of Prague. The city is the capital of the Czech Republic.

After an acclimatization period at a small enclosure, the horses were released to a 99-acre area. Their task is to stop the spread of aggressive and invasive grasses. That includes bushgrass. The grasses are delicacies for the horses. The invasive plants began to grow after Soviet troops withdrew in 1991. The invasive plants threaten the area's original plants and animals.

A stallion will join the mares in April.

Dalibor Dostal is the director of European Wildlife. It is the organization behind the project. He said scientists decided that using big-hoofed animals such as wild horses could solve the invasive plant problem in the most effective way. The animals "maintained the steppe character of nature across Europe for thousands of years," Dostal said.

The animals should also help some 30 threatened species in the area. The species include the Mountain Alcon Blue butterfly and the Star Gentian flowering plant.

"Alternatives to wild animals are very expensive. And their impact on the environment is not very good," Dostal said.

Domestic animals such as sheep were ruled out. They would feed on the endangered plants. And mechanical cutting costs too much.

"(The horses) will move freely on the pastures the whole year. If they have a source of water and enough space, they don't need any care. They are able to care for themselves," Dostal said.

Environmentalists are already planning to expand the territory. They also will use other big-hoofed animals such as European bison.

The Soviet army stayed after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of the country that formerly was called Czechoslovakia. It was the last armed force in the area. Dostal said the soldiers' activities actually simulated the impact of hoofed animals. That is a reason why "military zones in the Czech Republic are the places with the best biodiversity."

Critical thinking challenge: How did the soldiers' activities simulate the impact of hoofed animals?

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COMMENTS (5)
  • justing88
    3/30/2015 - 01:00 p.m.

    The horses that are put into the sanctuary have a job to do that haft to save some of the endangered butterfly.It was a Russia base now the scientist are getting rid of the tall grass and bring in bison to help out in cutting down all the grass.Some people thing sheep could of don this job but they would of ate some of the endangered plants.

  • John0724-YYCA
    4/03/2015 - 02:37 p.m.

    So how does a horse or any hoofed animals help the endangered species because all the article is talking about hoofed animal saving endangered species. It only gives details but no explanation and for me I think it is bad for they could eat the plants and stomp on those pretty butterflies and plants.

  • JazmynMurillo-Ste
    5/06/2015 - 01:54 p.m.

    This story is good because it tells how the horses got to the place they were at.

  • Lillianr-Cla
    5/18/2015 - 08:58 p.m.

    Ive read many interesting and unbelievable articles but this one is far more than that!butterflies threatening?!?!to horses!?!anyway i enjoyed this article very much and now it is time for the quiz and maybe another article. :)

  • Isabelle-Hor
    5/19/2015 - 02:28 p.m.

    How do horses save endangered speicies? I know their smart but I had no idea they were that smart and safe. If horses eat grass then how do they save endangered plants? Why do they need hoofed animals for tiny plants and animals that are endangered? Well if they think it's safe then so do I.

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