MILOVICE, Czech Republic (AP) — Wild horses, bison and other big-hoofed animals once roamed freely in much of Europe. Now they are transforming a former military base outside the Czech capital in an ambitious project to improve biodiversity.
Where occupying Soviet troops once held exercises, massive bovines called tauros and other heavy beasts now munch on the invasive plants that took over the base years ago.
The animals are turning the former Milovice military base 35 kilometers northeast of Prague into a miniature version of the steppe that once rolled across the European continent.
With some species wiped out in the wild, the animals now have the chance to live together again in relative freedom. Conservationists deployed them at Milovice five years ago. Now they hope to enlarge the sanctuary by one third to 360 hectares this year.
The animals’ task is to improve biodiversity among local plants by eating invasive ones while saving endangered species, said Dalibor Dostal, the director of European Wildlife, an organization behind the project.
“It’s a miraculous change,” Dostal said. “Nobody expected that the whole process would go ahead so fast and the area would change so much in just a few years.”
He said the large animals are as key to preserving the ecosystem “as trees are for forests.”
Featured image: Wild horses gallop across a meadow at a wildlife sanctuary in Milovice, Czech Republic, Friday, July 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek).