The Przewalski's horse (Equus caballus przewalskii) was extinct in the wild by the mid 1960s. The species has survived because of captive breeding only. The Takhin Tal reintroduction project is run by the International Takhi Group; it is one of two projects reintroducing horses to the wild in Mongolia. In 1997 the first harem group was released. The first foals were successfully raised in the wild in 1999. Currently, 63 Przewalski's horses live in Takhin Tal. Little information exists on causes of mortality before the implementation of a disease-monitoring program in 1998. Since 1999, all dead horses recovered (n = 28) have been examined and samples collected and submitted for further investigation. Equine piroplasmosis, a tick-transmitted disease caused by Babesia caballi or Theileria equi, is endemic in Takhin Tal and was identified as the cause of death of four stallions and one stillborn foal. In December 2000, wolf predation was implicated in the loss of several Przewalski's horses. However, thorough clinical, pathologic, and bacteriologic investigations performed on dead and surviving horses of this group revealed lesions compatible with strangles. The extreme Mongolian winter of 2000–2001 is thought to have most probably weakened the horses, making them more susceptible to opportunistic infection and subsequent wolf predation. Other occasional causes of death since 1999 were trauma, exhaustion, wasting, urolithiasis, pneumonia, abortion, and stillbirth. The pathologic examination of the Przewalski's horses did not result in a definitive diagnosis in each case. Several disease factors were found to be important in the initial phase of the reintroduction, which could potentially jeopardize the establishment of a self-sustaining population.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2