Rewilding of tarpan-like horses in Naliboki Forest may be a good idea, but we worry about wolves
Updated: Feb 12
Coauthor: Irina Rotenko
In Naliboki Forest in the locality of Pawnochnaje Wiunishcha a few kilometers behind this “No entry” sign there is a temporary enclosure with 150 tarpan-like horses, part of which has been delivered from the Netherlands a while ago. The goal of this action is to start rewilding of a forest-dwelling horses in Naliboki Forest. According to the historical messages including the Radzivil’s game-forestry documents, in Naliboki Forest wild horses that were called tarpans had plausibly disappeared in the mid or late 18th century.
There is no doubt, that in the aspect of the nature conservation particularly in Naliboki Forest presence of wild horses is important in the ecosystem of a forest-opening mosaic of the Naliboki terrain. Nevertheless, from the same positioning of nature conservation we started worrying about the future of wolves in Naliboki Forest in connection with the action of rewilding of tarpan-like horses. Why is it like that? The local wolf population has declined. The main cause is overhunting on wolves in the game husbandries, which are situated in Naliboki Forest around the Nalibotski reserve, as well as the reserve itself from year to year tried to get a permission to kill wolves. On the other hand, wolf reproduction in Naliboki Forest has almost stopped. Being mostly on open coach-dens without a protection of parent wolves (when parents left for foraging), wolf pups are usually trampled by deer and bisons that are so plenty terrain-wide.
However, some e-mail messages and online comments regarding the situation with the Dutch horses in relation to possible predating increase include actually a negative attitude to the wolves in Naliboki Forest. Behind such a comment one may read a suggestion to decrease the local wolf population. But in July 2019 in Naliboki Forest only 14 adult wolves lived. Additionally to numerous deer and bison, in a few years tarpan-like horses will trample the last wolf pups there. It looks like that something wrong, because presence of a healthy wolf population in Naliboki Forest seems to be more important than horse rewilding.
Finally, as to possible wolf predation, our opinion is quite opposite. It is predation by wolves that can help Dutch horses to establish a healthy population in Naliboki Forest. Without such a natural selection the horse population can be too weak and vulnerable in all the time changing ecological situation in Naliboki Forest, and it will be not sustainable long-term. Thus, the Dutch horses need a good population of wolves in Naliboki Forest.