Analysis of habitat use, activity, and body condition scores of Przewalski’s horses in Hortobagy National Park, Hungary

Viola Kerekes, Katalin Ozogány, István Sándor, Zsolt Vegvari, Csilla Czető, Bettina Nyírő, Timea Szabados, Lajos Széles, Zoltán Barta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A founder population of Przewalski’s horses (Equus ferus przewalskii) was set free in a semi-reserve called Pentezug in the Hortobagy National Park (Hungary) in 1997. Beside the Przewalski’s horses reconstructed aurochs (Bos taurus taurus) were bred as well in the 24.5-km2 large area. Both species reproduced successfully in this steppe reserve, which was once the homeland of their distant ancestors. The number of large grazers has grown so quickly that different strategies of population control had to be implemented for reconstructed aurochs and horses in 2007 and 2013, respectively. The activity, habitat use, and body condition of Przewalski’s horses were monitored regularly throughout the 22 years. We detected seasonal changes in the activity of the horses but the proportions of the main activity types were similar in two distant time periods. In contrast, habitat use and body condition scores for the horses showed remarkable differences between early vs. late years of the project, implying that horses were forced to use non-preferable areas and their condition was worsened in parallel with the increased population density of the large grazers. During the cold spring in 2018, there was a massive loss of both horses and cattle. These observations suggest that limited food sources could lead to changes in habitat use and/or worse body condition and a greater death rate in extreme weather conditions. In summary, strict birth control measures must be implemented in dense Przewalski’s horse populations, and the habitat use and body conditions must be monitored to balance the population size and carrying capacity of the areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalNature Conservation Research
Volume4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • Bos taurus taurus
  • Carrying capacity
  • Equus ferus przewalskii
  • Large grazers
  • Pentezug Reserve
  • Population control
  • Reconstructed aurochs
  • Semi-reserve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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