In a land run barren by communism’s modern farming concepts, there’s a great need for healing, says a group of Czech environmentalists. Healing of the landscape, healing of the culture, healing of the hearts of a people who’ve forgotten what it’s like to see animals grazing peacefully at pasture or in the wild.

But thanks to 15 sturdy bay and brown ponies that have recently arrived in a north central region of the Czech Republic, that’s all about to change.

“This isn’t just about rewilding our central European territory,” said Miloslav Jirku, PhD, of the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences. “It’s not about bringing animals here because we want them here or because they used to be here. We’re bringing them here because we need them here.”

In an unprecedented environmental conservation effort, Jirku and his team of scientists have handpicked a specific pony breed native to England—the Exmoor—and placed it on former military landscapes less than an hour northeast of Prague. Their goal? To have nature take its course, with large herbivores grazing and fertilizing the land, in hopes of one day restoring it to the rich and productive territory it used to be before World War II.

“In communist times (1940-1989), the Soviet government established a program called ‘collectivization’ of farms,” Jirku said. “Basically it meant seizing land and livestock from traditional landowners and centralizing them all in government-run institutions, where the animals were kept mostly indoors all the time. They taught us that it was the mode