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return of the wild horses

By Filip Singer

A Mongolian nomad rides his horse near the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Mongolian nomad rides his horse near the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Together with a cameraman, I am bending in a stream. There are flocks of mosquitoes all around us. We both need that one shot which will symbolize perfectly the whole transport – the return of the wild Przewalski’s horses to their native steppes, the Gobi desert region of southern Mongolia. Up until now I have photos of the horses inside the barriers, in both Czech republic and Mongolia. I also have shots during the beautiful sunrise and sunset in the Gobi desert; however, there is a fence in the background. I can’t reconcile with the fact that I still do not have photos of the horses in the wild desert.

Przewalski's horses stand in an acclimation pen of the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Przewalski’s horses stand in an acclimation pen of the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The herd of horses already escaped us several times. To take a photo of the horses in the wild Gobi almost seemed impossible. If we approached them, they noticed immediately and upon sight of us would run away a little further. In my tele lenses they were so small. Now, we are as close as never before. We are almost not breathing as we crouch and crawl through the dense grass ahead. The mosquitos are biting more and more, it’s unbearable. They are nearly eating us alive. The more we approach the more I think about how the Czech rangers urged us to be careful and not to get too close. I am a news photographer not a professional photographer of wild nature and I nearly forgot that there was no fence of the ZOO around me.

A herd of Przewalski's horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A herd of Przewalski’s horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The stud guards his territory especially since there are little foals in the herd. We are hesitating to go any further. As we finally overcome our fear and start go forward, the herd spot us. The leader of the herd is watching. The stud stands nearly 40 meters away and starts walking towards us. Deep inside I feel fear and worry. There is only the level field all around us and the ranger with his car is two kilometers away. If the stud decides to attack there is nowhere to hide except the river. The cameraman, who had convinced me to follow the herd, is now turning around and is about to attempt a run for the river. I quietly but emphatically urge him not to move for God´s sake! The stud chucks his head, and after what seemed like a never-ending minute, the herd passes by all around us. I´m taking the pictures as if I were fighting for my life, as we hear the pounding of their hoofs. The herd passes by and the cameraman and I laugh out of euphoria! We finally have the shots we need after losing hope we would ever get them.

I attended the whole trip with the Prevalski horses all the way to Mongolia. I´ve seen the whole story from the beginning till the releasing of the horses into the wild.

A convoy transports crates containing Przewalski's horses from Bulgan to Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A convoy transports crates containing Przewalski’s horses from Bulgan to Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The difficult tranquilizing the horses before loading them into the crates in Czech Republic, following 17 hours long flight in the cold cargo space of the military aircraft among the crates with the horses.

Vets look after the sedated Przewalski's horse Rabea, born in Leipzig, Germany on 14 September 2009, before her long journey to Mongolia, at the acclimatization station in the village of Dolni Dobrejov, about 80 km from Prague, Czech Republic, 04 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Vets look after the sedated Przewalski’s horse Rabea, born in Leipzig, Germany on 14 September 2009, before her long journey to Mongolia, at the acclimatization station in the village of Dolni Dobrejov, about 80 km from Prague, Czech Republic, 04 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The unloading and long way of the convoy through hard terrain all the way here to Gobi, the new home of the wild horses.

Przewalski's horse Querida, born in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic on 10 August 2012, jumps off her transport crate upon her arrival at the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, late 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Przewalski’s horse Querida, born in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic on 10 August 2012, jumps off her transport crate upon her arrival at the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, late 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Beautiful wild nature, the nomads, the fantastic crew of Prague ZOO and local rangers.

Mongolian rangers and family members celebrate during a dinner in honor of the successful arrival of Przewalski's horses from Czech Republic to the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Mongolian rangers and family members celebrate during a dinner in honor of the successful arrival of Przewalski’s horses from Czech Republic to the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Przewalski's horse runs in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Przewalski’s horse runs in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

So many incredible elements to the story, but the everlasting memory remains the imagery of the herd of the last surviving wild horses living in the world.

A herd of Przewalski's horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A herd of Przewalski’s horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Wild horse feature package on epa.eu

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