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Male Przewalski’s Horse Dies at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

February 2, 2016

A 16-year-old male Przewalski’s (shah-VAL-skee) horse named Frog died suddenly under anesthesia in preparation for a reproductive assessment at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). A final pathology report will provide more information in the coming weeks. The median life expectancy of a Przewalski’s horse in human care is about 20 years.

Minutes after being anesthetized, Frog went into cardio-respiratory arrest. Staff administered anesthesia reversal medications and attempted to resuscitate the horse through oxygen support and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

Born at SCBI May 10, 1999, keepers describe Frog as a “character” who chased vehicles that drove past his enclosure. Most zoo animals participate in a breeding program called the Species Survival Plan. The SSP scientists determine which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, nutritional and social needs, temperament and overall health. Frog was the most genetically valuable Przewalski’s horse in North America. He made significant contributions to the survival of his species; while at SCBI, he sired eight offspring, four of which survived. Scientists intend to use Frog’s banked sperm in future artificial inseminations.

The Przewalski’s horse is a species native to China and Mongolia that was declared extinct in the wild in 1969. Today, approximately 1,500 Przewalski’s horses reside at zoological institutions worldwide, carrying genes from only 14 original animals. Hunting, loss of habitat and loss of water sources threaten horses that have been reintroduced to their native habitats. Committed to preserving this species and equid research in general, SCBI works to maintain breeding populations that serve as a source of animals for reintroduction. In 2013, scientists at SCBI celebrated a huge breakthrough for the survival of this species with the birth of a female Przewalski’s horse—the first born via artificial insemination. Visitors can see two Przewalski’s horses on exhibit adjacent to the Small Mammal House at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

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Photo Credit: Dolores Reed, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute




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