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African Wild Ass

Today we're going to learn all about the ancestor to the modern Donkey: the African Wild Ass. These members of the Equus genus were domesticated 6,000 years ago, and while Donkeys can now be found worldwide, their wild relatives have drastically dwindled in number.

Somali Wild Ass mare and foal in captivity
Though they were once found throughout the northern parts of the continent, African Wild Asses are now found only in scattered parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. They are regionally extinct elsewhere. The climate in these areas is rocky and arid, and the Asses have evolved to survive in dry climates. They can live through water loss that amounts to 30% of their overall body weight, and can rapidly gain those fluids back when water is available. African Wild Asses are most active during dawn and dusk, and they remain in the shade during the hottest parts of the day.

The Asses live in very loose herds that can number up to 50 individuals. The only strong attachments are between mothers and foals; the rest of the herd comes and goes based on the available supply of food and water. Adult males often hold on to large territories near water sources, and mate with females that come in to that range. The males actually mark their territory using dung heaps, which are excellent visual markers in flat landscapes.

The African Wild Ass in general, and two of its subspecies, the Somali and Nubian Wild Asses, are all listed as Critically Endangered. The animals have been hunted for food, and have been crossbreeding with domestic Donkeys for several millennia. They are also forced to compete for food against livestock. As a result of these threats there are only a few hundred left in the wild.

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : Northeast Africa
Size : 14hands (1.45m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Perissodactyla
Family : Equidae -- Genus : Equus -- Species : E. africanus


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