Title: I Want a Polish Pony!
When I started learning about Poland last year, I was surprised to learn that Poland has 23 national parks. That’s a lot of parks for a small country! Last weekend, I visited Roztocze (Rose-TOE-cheh) National Park. It took about two hours by bus to get there. I went to Roztocze to see the Polish ponies. These ponies are the great-great-grandchildren of the tarpans a breed of wild horses that are now extinct in Europe. It was amazing to find out how much people in Poland care about preserving wildlife.
What does this creature or plant look like?
Polish ponies look a lot like regular horses. They are a bit smaller and sturdier, though. Their hooves are a lot bigger than normal horses’. They grow fur in the winter to protect them from the cold. The ponies I saw were kind of ugly, because their fur was falling out. In the summer, they lose their fur. Their coats are gray and beige, and they have brown and black manes. I saw some baby ponies too. They were very cute, small and playful.
How did I feel when I saw it?
When I got to Zwierzyniec (Zvier-ZHEN-ee-its), I rented a bicycle. This is the best way to get to the ponies. They are in a protected area of the park. The forests of Roztocze are quiet, cool, and smell of pine. There are lots of animals in the forest, like the gray wolf, wild boars, different types of deer and badgers. Most of these animals hide deep in the forest, though. Since it’s a bad idea to go hiking by yourself, I stayed mostly on the bike path.
It took about thirty minutes for me to get to the ponies. I expected that I would have to go hiking in the woods to find them. Imagine my surprise when I found a large field full of ponies! The area the ponies like is fenced-off, but the ponies really aren’t afraid of people. They came very close to the fence. I sat for about an hour, watching the ponies eat grass, run through the water, and play. It was very peaceful.
I’d never seen a wild horse before. Watching the ponies made me wish there were more wild horses in the world!
Where does it live?
Tarpans used to live in Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, Lithuania and Prussia (now parts of Germany). They went extinct in the early 1900s. Polish ponies are close relatives, but they have been bred with regular horses. There are other types of wild horses other places in Europe, but not very many.
How does it use its environment to survive?
Polish ponies like wetland areas. They like to feed on the grasses. They can also eat plants found in forests. They are survivors! I learned that they’re important to wetland areas and meadows, because they keep the grasses trimmed. They also churn the mud up. This allows reeds to grow, and animals like frogs and salamanders to thrive. These animals support large water birds.
There was a big water bird that looked like a heron following the ponies around. Maybe it was hoping the ponies would help it find lunch!
What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?
A lot of animals that used to live in Europe are now extinct. The biggest problem facing woodland animals is deforestation. Most of Poland’s forests are not old-growth forests. This means that they were cut down and replanted at one time. Even if they were replanted hundreds of years ago, these forests don’t support as much biodiversity as old-growth forests.
In Poland, the only large old-growth forest is Białowieża, a national park in the northeast of the country. In this forest, you can find some of the last European Bison. I want to visit this forest, but it takes a long time to get there.
We shouldn’t be too worried about animals like the Polish pony. Polish national parks do a great job of protecting wildlife. For example, you have to pay a lot of money to see the bison in Białowieża. There are some bison at a reserve area, but most are deep in the park. You have to pay a guide and must follow a lot of rules.
You also have to pay money to go hiking and biking in Roztocze. There are rangers to make sure people don’t just wander around wherever they like and disturb the ponies deep in the woods.
Here is a video!: https://www.dropbox.com/s/snlufm5m4ld5l0d/Ponies_Video.wmv