World’s last ‘wild’ horse foal born at London's Whipsnade Zoo and has taken his first steps

Little Luujin is a critically endangered Przewalski’s foal, a species classified as "extinct in the wild"

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A foal which is one of the world's last "wild" horses has been born at a UK zoo - and has taken his first tentative steps.

Little Luujin, who is a critically endangered Przewalski’s foal, was born earlier in April - much to the joy of zookeepers at London's Whipsnade Zoo.

He arrived in the to the world on Thursday 13 April at the conservation zoo in Dunstable, as part of the European Endangered Species Programme for the species. Now, at just a few days old, he's starting to stretch his legs and explore his surroundings for the very first time.  

Keepers had been monitoring Luujin's mum Charlotte while she was pregnant, and were delighted when she gave birth to the healthy foal in a secluded area of the 600-acre conservation zoo. Visitors who were there at the time were also able to watch the moment from a safe distance and then saw the wobbly newborn standing up for the first time.  

Zookeeper Luke Pharoah said: “Our team filmed the youngster’s first tentative steps moments after being born, which gave us all an immense feeling of hope for this endangered species.”

How endangered are Przewalski’s horses? 

Przewalski’s horses were classified as "extinct in the wild" until horses previously bred at Whipsnade Zoo were successfully reintroduced to Mongolia as part of a collaborative conservation project between Mongolian and UK Zoological Society of London (ZSL) scientists to save the species. There are now hundreds of wild Przewalski’s horses living in the grasslands and deserts of Mongolia, Ukraine and China, and their population is increasing. As a result of these reintroduction projects, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List reclassified the Przewalski’s horse as "critically endangered" in 2008, and then again as "endangered" as 2011. 

Unlike other species of horse that are sometimes described as ‘wild’, the Przewalski’s horse is the only species considered by conservationists to be truly wild, rather than feral as it is not descended from domesticated horses.

Luujin, a newly born Przewalski foal, at Whipsnade Zoo, with mum Charlotte. Photo credit: Whipsnade Zoo/Dominic Lipinski.Luujin, a newly born Przewalski foal, at Whipsnade Zoo, with mum Charlotte. Photo credit: Whipsnade Zoo/Dominic Lipinski.
Luujin, a newly born Przewalski foal, at Whipsnade Zoo, with mum Charlotte. Photo credit: Whipsnade Zoo/Dominic Lipinski.

Luke added: “We are delighted to have boosted the population of these incredible, endangered animals, the last remaining species of truly wild horse left in the world.  While we monitored Charlotte’s pregnancy carefully we also knew that, as an experienced mum, she would know exactly what to do. She’s been naturally very protective of Luujin, nudging him along gently in the spring sunshine, so we’ve kept our distance and have been delighted to see that he is suckling and developing well. Luujin is now just starting to try to gallop and visitors to our conservation zoo will be able to watch him finding his feet with the rest of the herd this spring.” 

Shortly after his birth, the team sent photos of Luujin to ZSL conservationists working in Mongolia, who gave the youngster his name, which is pronounced "Lor-jin" and means “compass”.   

ZSL’s Mongolia Country Director Tungaa Ulambayar said: “Luujin’s name symbolises moving in the right direction for this species – from Extinct-in-the-Wild to roaming in their native habitat once more, which is an incredible collective achievement for conservationists. Luujin is a reminder of the incredible potential of conservation zoos to bring species - quite literally - back from the brink of extinction.” 

Visitors can see Luujin alongside 10,000 other animals at Whipsnade Zoo this April and beyond. You can find out more about the conservation zoo’s vital work protecting species on the at Whipsnade Zoo website.

Related topics: