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Long-term partnership for protection and birth control of wild horses in Danube Delta


Sydney, 3 August – International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS and the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority have signed a long-term partnership agreement to manage the wild roaming horses in Romania’s oldest natural reserve, the Letea forest in the Danube Delta.


The partnership aims to protect both animals and natural ecosystems in the UNESCO World Heritage listed forest. For the next ten years, FOUR PAWS and the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority will join forces to control the horse population in Letea and will also strive to protect these animals against maltreatment, capture or killing. FOUR PAWS will continue to offer professional and logistical support to provide population control of the horses by the most humane and least invasive method available: an immune contraceptive for the mares. In addition, the organisation will support the authorities in setting up an education program about the wild horses for locals and tourists to support the sustainable development of the area.


“In 2009 FOUR PAWS started the wild horses project to protect the animals and the habitat in which they live since hundreds of years. Now our efforts are rewarded with this agreement with the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority. We are happy that Governor Mr. Lucian Eduard Simion acknowledged the importance of these horses in the Danube Delta, as integral part of its biodiversity." says Robert Hengl, FOUR PAWS’ Project Leader Horses.


"The approximately 500 wild horses living in and around Letea contribute a lot to the diversity of the natural habitat in the area. We want them to go on living free here, but it is important that their number is kept under control, so that they do not affect other species that live in the forest. Our long-term cooperation with FOUR PAWS will allow us to join our forces for the benefit of the animals and the natural ecosystems." said Lucian Eduard Simion, Governor of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.


According to historic documents, free roaming horses in the Danube Delta can be traced back to the great migration of Tartars in the 13th century. Since then, the number of horses has ranged from several thousand to several hundred. From data collected in aerial counts in May 2013, April 2014 and March 2015, it is estimated that approximately 500 horses currently roam free in Letea. 


The animals have often been blamed for disturbing the natural balance of the flora and fauna in the area. Since autumn 2013, FOUR PAWS has been trying to control the reproduction of the horses with humane methods – using the immune contraceptive vaccine (PZP) on mares – in order to protect the horses as well as the area. 


First laboratory tests by the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna have shown the desired effect of the PZP. 95 % of tested faecal samples of the horses were declared as being not pregnant. This method of contraception is reversible so, depending on the desired results it should be repeated every year.