A LIFE­LONG EN­GAGE­MENT FOR NA­TURE

The UB Post - - FRONT PAGE - By ANITA FAHRNI

Horses, in­clud­ing the takhi, can count on Re­bekka Blumer’s sup­port.

Re­bekka Blumer is a Swiss busi­ness woman whose com­pany is owned jointly with her hus­band, Peter Kistler. Theirs is a ser­vice com­pany ac­tive in the field of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and ac­tiv­i­ties in na­ture. She also owns Smart Horse Sta­bles, sup­port­ing horse-back rid­ing and sell­ing the equip­ment in­volved. As a board mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Takhi Group (ITG), she sup­ports as trea­surer of the non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion the rein­tro­duc­tion of the wild horse in Mon­go­lia. Now she is in Mon­go­lia – in con­nec­tion with this work.

You are an ex­pe­ri­enced busi­ness woman in the fi­nance and ser­vice field. What ex­actly do you do?

To­gether with my part­ner, I ran a com­pany pro­vid­ing med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in the fields of on­col­ogy and he­ma­tol­ogy to doc­tors, nurses and pa­tients all around the world, in­clud­ing Asia, the Mid­dle East, Africa and Latin Amer­ica. We or­ga­nized med­i­cal sem­i­nars rang­ing in size from small group meet­ings to large con­fer­ences with 1,000 at­ten­dees. We pre­pared the sci­en­tific pro­gram and pre­sen­ta­tions and the con­fer­ence lo­gis­tics. You no­tice that I am re­fer­ring to the past: af­ter 20 years in this chal­leng­ing in­ter­na­tional busi­ness, we re­tired just a few months ago.

How did you be­come in­ter­ested in the pro­tec­tion of na­ture? Do Swiss schools and fam­i­lies em­pha­size the need to care for the en­vi­ron­ment?

I grew up in the coun­try­side and al­ready as a child spent a lot of time out­doors. I en­joy the beauty of na­ture: flow­ers, an­i­mals, big and small crea­tures. All are pre­cious and they need our sup­port, as nowa­days mankind uses the re­sources of the planet too ex­tremely, with­out think­ing about the ef­fects of this use. Both through our com­pany and pri­vately, I am sup­port­ing var­i­ous con­ser­va­tion projects with a fo­cus on bio­di­ver­sity hotspots.

Na­ture con­ser­va­tion is a big topic in Switzer­land and my coun­try has a very strong con­ser­va­tion law. In pri­mary school chil­dren al­ready learn about wildlife, nat­u­ral places and the im­por­tance of sus­tain­able and care­ful man­age­ment of the en­vi­ron­ment. They are taught to be eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive. For in­stance, in Switzer­land, more than 90 per­cent of the peo­ple sep­a­rate their garbage and bring pa­per, plas­tic, cans, prac­ti­cally their en­tire non-food garbage, to re­cy­cling cen­ters. This is a great les­son for chil­dren about how to take care of the en­vi­ron­ment. Also, many peo­ple in Switzer­land do­nate money each year to char­i­ties, in­clud­ing con­ser­va­tion projects. Help­ing in this way and vol­un­teer­ing to serve is a tra­di­tion.

As an owner of a sta­ble, you work with do­mes­ti­cated horses but are now on the board of the In­ter­na­tional Takhi Group.

I grew up with horses and they play an im­por­tant role in my life. I re­ceived my first own pony when I was 12 years old; it died at the age of 30! I al­ways liked buck­skin col­ored horses and when I bought my first Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse, it looked like a takhi: sand brown, dor­sal stripe, ze­bra stripes at the legs, black mane and tail and a gray mouth. Lik­ing this kind of horses also raised my in­ter­est in takhis. I be­came a Friend of the Wild Horse in Switzer­land. This is an as­so­ci­a­tion donat­ing funds to ITG for the takhi rein­tro­duc­tion project in Mon­go­lia. In 2012, there was an ur­gent call for a fi­nance man­ager for ITG and I voiced my in­ter­est. Shortly there­after, I got elected at the gen­eral as­sem­bly to join the board.

In the Great Gobi B SPA, nearly 200 takhi now roam in com­plete free­dom. You have re­cently been there and seen sev­eral harems at a dis­tance.

It was a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to see the horses. When I saw for the first time the takhis roam­ing free in the Great Gobi B I was over­whelmed. Spend­ing sev­eral days in the park with the rangers I saw al­most all the horses, even a large group of al­most 70 an­i­mals! This emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence proved to me the im­por­tance of donat­ing my time to this project. The vast­ness of the Great Gobi B of­fers space for many hun­dreds more and there will be many more in the fu­ture. If my work will help ful­fill this dream I will hap­pily con­tinue my sup­port.

2017 is the 25th an­niver­sary of the rein­tro­duc­tion of the takhi to Mon­go­lia. Can it be suc­cess­ful in the long run?

The project of rein­tro­duc­ing the takhis is go­ing very well. Ev­ery year about 30 foals are born and even though not all sur­vive to adult­hood, the pop­u­la­tion is con­stantly ris­ing. De­spite the threats of harsh win­ters, which can cause se­vere mor­tal­ity, in­fec­tious dis­eases and some other chal­lenges, ITG is con­vinced that a self­sus­tain­able pop­u­la­tion of takhis can be reached.

The In­ter­na­tional Takhi Group is not in­ter­ested only in the

horses.

In­deed, even though the takhi is our main fo­cus, you can­not con­serve a species with­out car­ing for its habi­tat, which in­cludes a net­work of in­ter­act­ing plant and an­i­mal species. There­fore, many of ITG’s ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude habi­tat man­age­ment. A good park man­age­ment by the rangers is ex­tremely im­por­tant. This means that we sup­port the elab­o­ra­tion of a man­age­ment plan that in­cludes the uti­liza­tion of the park by no­mads and their live­stock. De­spite the large size of the Great Gobi B, our re­search has shown that the home-range of the takhis al­ready ex­tends be­yond the park bor­ders. For that rea­son, ITG sup­ports the idea of en­larg­ing the park.

Mon­go­lia is not the only coun­try where takhi roam. Just across the bor­der in China, there are also wild horses.

In for­mer times, the takhi’s home-range ex­tended from Mon­go­lia and China through Cen­tral Asia all the way to Europe. Since its ex­tinc­tion in the wild, sev­eral vi­sion­ar­ies have worked on bring­ing the takhi back to the wild. Apart from Mon­go­lia, China started a rein­tro­duc­tion pro­gram in the prov­inces of Xin­jiang and Guangzhou in the early 1990s. There is an in­for­ma­tion ex­change between ITG and the Wild Horse Breed­ing and Re­search Cen­ter in Xin­jiang, as part­ner­ship and co­op­er­a­tion in such a dif­fi­cult project are very im­por­tant. In the late 19th cen­tury, takhis were be­ing hunted in north­ern Xin­jiang, so there was a con­tigu­ous pop­u­la­tion reach­ing into Mon­go­lia. This makes us ask whether suit­able habi­tats in both coun­tries might be re­con­nected through a wildlife cor­ri­dor, al­low­ing steppe an­i­mals to mi­grate sea­son­ally.

You have just been with other board mem­bers in Kaza­khstan.

Yes, we trav­eled through the vast steppe of cen­tral-western Kaza­khstan with a team of bi­ol­o­gists work­ing on the rein­tro­duc­tion of khu­lans, an­other en­dan­gered equid. The so­lace of the great open space, watch­ing saiga and camels in the golden steppe is just won­der­ful. As the khu­lan will be back in Kaza­khstan within a few weeks af­ter our visit, the only species miss­ing to com­plete the pic­ture of graz­ers and browsers there is the takhi. Hope­fully, the dream of see­ing takhi in Kaza­khstan, too, will come true some­day soon!

What can Mon­go­lians do to sup­port the work of the In­ter­na­tional Takhi Group?

The project in the Great Gobi B is a na­tional Mon­go­lian project but ITG is work­ing closely with peo­ple in the gov­ern­ment, the soums and prov­inces who all are very sup­port­ive. A project like the re-in­tro­duc­tion of the takhi, un­do­ing their ex­tinc­tion in the wild, is a very chal­leng­ing con­ser­va­tion task. Its suc­cess is a rea­son for pride as the project was ini­ti­ated by Mon­go­lians. But to suc­ceed, the work needs peo­ple who put their hearts into it, like the rangers work­ing in the park. One way of help­ing is to sup­port the pro­gram's goals and ac­tions. But we also need money for salaries, cars, gaso­line, in­fra­struc­ture main­te­nance, hay and so on. I do hope that this gen­uinely Mon­go­lian story of bring­ing the takhi home mo­ti­vates many cor­po­rate and pri­vate spon­sors in Mon­go­lia to sup­port the Friends of the Takhi with a do­na­tion.

A project like the re-in­tro­duc­tion of the takhi, un­do­ing their ex­tinc­tion in the wild, is a very chal­leng­ing con­ser­va­tion task. Its suc­cess is a rea­son for pride as the

project was ini­ti­ated by Mon­go­lians. But to suc­ceed, the work needs peo­ple who put their hearts into it, like the rangers work­ing in the

park.

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