Wild horses may save threatened butterflies
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
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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. 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 bush grass that is a delicacy for them. 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, 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 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. 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?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/wild-horses-may-save-threatened-butterflies/

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COMMENTS (109)
  • MichaelaJ-3
    3/27/2015 - 04:25 p.m.

    Twenty-five years ago, it was a military zone where Soviet troops were. A herd of 14 wild mares from Britain's Exmoor National Park were moved in January to the former Milovice military base. I think this may have injured or made the mares uncomfortable in their new environment. Environmentalists are planning on expanding the territory for the "horse."

  • lyndas705
    3/27/2015 - 04:39 p.m.

    I think that it's really cool to not only use horses to protect other animals but themselves as well. It is a good thing that they're not only protecting themselves but other species.

  • lesliew219
    3/27/2015 - 05:26 p.m.

    I'm glad these little creatures are being saved and that the horses are helping fellow creatures. If I could be there to save them I would.

    • BellaS-Kut
      3/29/2015 - 11:20 a.m.

      I think its great horses are saving creatures lives. If they didnt we would be loosing our species. Then if they weren't saving they're lives we would have a tragic of loosing butterflies&catapillars :(

  • KevinL1122
    3/27/2015 - 10:40 p.m.

    I think the soldiers activities simulate the impact of hoofed animals because when soldiers trained they probably trampled the grass so it had difficulty growing. For example when they run they trample the grass.

  • AinsleyW-Kut
    3/28/2015 - 03:09 p.m.

    I think these horses are kind of like heroes, they help save about 30 species and are getting rid of an invasive plant species. The invasive plants are destroying other plants too, and when these horses eat up and cut down this invasive plant they are saving a ton of other species.

  • JordanC-Kut
    3/28/2015 - 07:03 p.m.

    I think that it is very disapointing that poor little butterflies are going extinct and that it is very good that they are helping endangered animals like the butterfly. I think that it is cool that the butterflies are not scared of the horses. Also, I think that is sad that the soldiers are affecting the horses after all the horses have done to them.

  • MaggieM-3
    3/28/2015 - 07:37 p.m.

    A ninety-nine acre area that used to occupy soviet troops will now be a home to many endangered species with the help of horses. There is fourteen of the mares and they are from Britain's Exmoor National Park. They had a acclimatization period in a small enclosure but were then released into the wild to care for themselves. The goal for the horses is to stop the spreading of non-native grasses and wildlife. On of these invasive plants is bush grass, a treasured meal for the horses that began to grow when the Soviet troops began to withdraw in 1991. According to a plan a stallion will join the mares in April. People decided to use the horses to get ride of the invasive species because removing them in man made ways is not only expensive but not good for the environment. Other animals like sheep were not chosen because they would not only feed on the invasive plants but also the endangered plants.
    I do not understand the point of trying to kill of one type of species that is thriving in an ecosystem in order to nourish a species that is only dying. I think that if one type of species is doing very will in a region there is no need to get ride of it. People need to understand that at one point the endangered species was once the invasive species in an ecosystem and that people need to let ecosystems evolve on their at their own pace.

  • CarmenP-Kut
    3/29/2015 - 12:13 p.m.

    This is a great idea because one it keeps pesticides out of our environment. Two the horses love being out in an open space without any humans (but they do love being with humans as well). Three it doesn't cost as much money as a tractor that needs gas.

  • DarbyC-Kut
    3/29/2015 - 05:39 p.m.

    Wow I never thought that a horse could save so many species of plats and animals. Also I thought that evasive species could not be stopped guess I was wrong.

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