Active in the cool of dawn and dusk, African wild asses seek shade in the heat of the day and are able to survive without water for a few days at a time. These grazers eat a variety of grasses and herbs, and in captivity have been known to live for 40 years.
The African wild ass (Equus africanus) is the ancestor of the domestic donkey, and has a similar stocky body shape. The short, smooth coat is a light grey to fawn colour, fading to white on the undersides and legs. Both subspecies have a dark stripe across their back and the Somali wild ass (E.a.somalicus) also has horizontally striped legs like those of a zebra. The ears are large and bordered by black whilst the thick, upright mane is also black at the tip.
Habitat and Range Edit
The African wild ass inhabits arid areas such as hill and stony deserts, semi-arid bushlands and grasslands, where there is access to surface water.
Previously found across northern Africa, from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to Sudan and Somalia. Today, the African wild ass is restricted to scattered populations in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and is regionally extinct in Egypt and Sudan.
Threats and Conservation Edit
African wild asses have been captured for domestication for centuries and this, together with interbreedingbetween wild and domestic animals, has caused a distinct decline in population numbers. There are now only a few hundred individuals left in the wild and the species is under threat of extinction. These animals are hunted for food and for traditional medicine in both Ethiopia and Somalia, where recent civil unrest has led to an increased number of weapons in circulation. Competition with domestic livestock for grazing, and restricted access to water supplies caused by agricultural developments, pose further threats to the survival of this species.
The African wild ass is legally protected in the countries within which it is currently found, although these measures often prove difficult to enforce. More effective protection measures need to be adopted if the status of this species is to improve. A protected population of the Somali wild ass exists in the Yotvata Hai-Bar (Wildlife Preserve) Nature Reserve in Israel, to the north of Elat. This reserve was established in 1968 with the view to bolster populations of endangered desert species. Populations of horses and asses are fairly resilient, and if the species is properly protected it may well recover from its current low.