Moving Animals

In July 2022, Monica Vasile presented the paper “Thinking with the wild ass: teaching the Przewalski’s horse to move in the Gobi Desert, a contemporary history of conservation science” at the Animal History Group Summer Conference. She shows how humans taught the Przewalski’s horses how to move and explore territory (‘again’) in the wild of the Gobi desert, after living in zoos for generations and losing their spatial imagination. In this paper Monica explores how in the early 2000s, scientists turned to wild asses (also called khulans), who had large movement ranges and fared well in difficult winter conditions, to borrow knowledge for teaching the horses. Based on research of documents, scientific publications and interviews, she traces the entangled journeys of the horses, wild asses, and scientists as they produced a more-than-human history of the wild horse learning to move across their new but old ‘home’ range.

Image credit: Dalaitseren Sukhbaatar, 2022.