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 where occupying Soviet troops held exercises. Today it's a sanctuary inhabited by wild animals that scientists hope 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, 22 miles northeast of Prague, 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 evasive grasses including bushgrass that are delicacies for them. The invasive plants began to grow after Soviet troops withdrew in 1991, threatening the area's original plants and animals. A stallion will join the mares in April.

Dalibor Dostal, director of European Wildlife, the organization behind the project, said scientists decided that using big-hoofed animals such as wild horses, which "maintained the steppe character of nature across Europe for thousands of years," could solve the invasive plant problem in the most effective way. That should also help some 30 threatened species in the area, including 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 because 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 and use other big-hoofed animals such as European bison.

The Soviet army that stayed after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of then-Czechoslovakia was the last armed force in the area. Dostal said the soldiers' activities actually simulated the impact of hoofed animals, 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 (14)
  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    3/27/2015 - 02:38 p.m.

    I have never heard of such an amazing thing before. It is truly inspiring to me that something so little, could have such a big impact on beautiful butterflies.

  • CharismaM
    3/29/2015 - 02:24 p.m.

    I hope the environmentalists succeed in improving biodiversity. Saving endangered species from going extinct will preserve them for later years and might help in the future.

  • SydneyL-Kut
    3/29/2015 - 02:47 p.m.

    I think it's cool that they found a way to help the butterflies. Now, not only do the horses help the butterflies, but they also get a place to eat and live. It must have been hard to find an animal that would help stop the invasive species and also not eat the endangered species. So it's a good thing the figured out the horses could help.

  • SydneeF-Kut
    3/29/2015 - 08:00 p.m.

    its good people are finding ways to solve problems like these in easy, cheap, affective, and environmentally friendly ways because with the amount of issues with our worlds environment. using things that we already have is safe and cheap, not causing alot of problems. most things like this i bet people would just use machinery and dig the plants up but instead they used horses, definitely more affective. i wish people would use more environmentally friendly methods more often.

  • CorsonZ-Tan
    3/30/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    I believe this is a wonderful idea to do. Horses are one of the animals that could help endangered butterflies. The reasons that the horses can help butterflies that are endangered are eating the grasses that are killing them off. These can help so many animals.

  • MaricleP-Tan
    3/30/2015 - 08:45 a.m.

    These horses may have a impact not only on the invasive plants but will also have a impact on the endangered plants as well do to them stepping on them and eating them. These horses may soon become over populated in the place in which they were released due to them having no natural predator. These horse will soon ruin the landscape due to them smashing that land with their feet and eating much of the vegetation.

  • EmmaBender
    3/30/2015 - 01:38 p.m.

    I've never thought that anything like that could happen. I think it's cool that the soldiers have simulated the impact of the animals and that the animals are safe.

  • apalacio-Che
    3/30/2015 - 01:51 p.m.

    I think its cool how they saved the butterflies. Its amazing that the horse helped the butterflies and now they can live and continue to grow.

  • rositap-Che
    3/30/2015 - 01:55 p.m.

    I think its nice to see horses to be saving butterflies. Especially when butterflies are beautiful creatures that need to be saved. I love butterflies and I think they are cool creatures and I'm glad they are being saved.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    3/31/2015 - 06:30 a.m.

    Not only is this adorable, but it is also inspiring. These horses think that they are just living there, not realizing that they are there for a purpose: to protect their other animal friends. This is just so neat! I hope the horses achieve their goals.

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