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Wild horses in Letea: FOUR PAWS and Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority sign long term partnership

Birth control programme continues with joint efforts

The 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 Letea in the Danube Delta.

© FOUR PAWS | Matthias Schickhofer

The partnership aims to protect both animals and natural ecosystems in Letea Forest, a forest that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. 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 mistreatment, 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. Additionally, the organisation will support the authorities in setting up an educational campaign regarding the wild horses, taking into consideration the touristic potential and the sustainable development of the area.

© FOUR PAWS | Matthias Schickhofer

Lucian Eduard Simion, Governor of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve:
"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." 


Robert Hengl, Project Lead Horses FOUR PAWS:
“In 2009 FOUR PAWS started the wild horses project to protect the animals and the habitat in which they live for hundreds of years now. Finally our efforts are reflected by 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 Danube Delta, as a part of its biodiversity." 

© FOUR PAWS | Matthias Schickhofer

According to historical documents, free roaming horses in the Danube Delta can be tracked back to the great migration of Tartars in the 13th century. Since then, the number of the horses has ranged from several thousand to several hundred. After consecutive aerial counts in May 2013, April 2014 and March 2015, approximately 500 horses now roam freely in Letea. Frequently the animals have been accused of disturbing the natural balance of the flora and fauna in the area. Since autumn 2013, FOUR PAWS has been trying to stem the reproduction of the horses with humane methods, in order to protect the area as well as the horse population by using the immune contraceptive vaccine (PZP) on mares. 


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.