The African wild ass is a critically endangered species of donkey found around the Horn of Africa. Its former range included Egypt, Sudan, and Libya, but persecution for meat and hide have reduced their population to a mere few hundreds.
Size: The African wild ass is around 6.6 ft (2 m) long with a height of between 4.25 and 4.92 ft (1.25-1.45m) at the shoulder.
Weight: They weigh around 510-610 lbs (230-275 kg).
Color: They have a fawn to light grey smooth and short coat, which fades to white around the undersides. There is a rigid, upright and black-tipped mane on the nape of the neck. Their large ears are bordered with black. There are horizontal black stripes on the legs of some subspecies.
One can find an African wild ass in the countries of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
There are two subspecies of the African wild ass. They are the Somali wild ass (E. a. somaliensis) and the Nubian wild ass (E. a. africanus).
They prefer to inhabit a desert or semi-desert habitats.
The African Wild Ass
African Wild Ass
They are crepuscular and stay active at dawn and dusk. They spend the hot hours of the daytime in shades.
They are territorial; adult males have been seen defending territories of up to 9 sq. miles. They mark their territories with heaps of droppings. Because of the size of the territory, the alpha male has to withstand the presence of subordinate males within their territory. Subordinates are kept afar from the females.
They form herds consisting of up to 50 individuals.
Unlike most ungulates, they rarely flee at the sign of danger, instead investigating the situation before deciding on the next course of action. They can defend themselves well by kicking with both the hind and front legs.
They are primarily grazers and live on herbs and grasses.
Mating & Reproduction
They do not have a fixed breeding season and can mate at any time of the year, but prefer the rainy season. The gestation period lasts for around 12 months after which one offspring is born.
African Wild Ass Foal
African Wild Ass Baby
The young weigh around 19-30 lb (8.6-13.6 kg) at birth. They are fairly well-developed and can stand on their own and nurse just 30 minutes after birth. They are weaned after 5 months.
Both genders reach sexual maturity after 2 years, but males may take up to 3-4 years to gain the right to mate.
They live in the wild for around 30 years, but in captivity, they may survive for up to 50 years.
Sounds & Communication
The sounds that they make to communicate with each other are called brays. Other than this they also use smells, tactile methods, and visual cues to communicate.
The digestive system of the African wild ass is tough and able to process the desert vegetation they consume, breaking it down and extracting the moisture from the food.
The large ears aid them in keeping themselves cool in the desert heat.
They are almost as quick as horses because of the strong limbs. They are also rather agile.
In the absence of surface water to drink, they have been known to drink salty or brackish water.
Most adult African wild asses are on a constant lookout for trouble. Predation mainly occurs on the young and old. Common predators are wolves and lions.
IUCN Conservation Status
The IUCN lists the African wild ass under their ‘Critically Endangered’ category.
African Wild Ass Pictures
African Wild Ass Images
There are only about 570 African wild asses left in the wild and 150 individuals living in zoos.
One of the biggest reasons for the decline in the population of this species is its interbreeding with the domestic donkey.