Endangered Species of the Week: African wild ass
Species: African wild ass (Equus africanus)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The African wild ass is the ancestor of the domestic donkey!
An extremely hardy species, the African wild ass exists in scattered populations in northern Africa. In its desert habitat, it can sustain water loss of up to 30% of its body weight, though it usually remains within 30 kilometres of a water source. While the African wild ass may seek out shade in the hottest part of the day, in early morning and late evening it is more active, and seeks out grasses and herbs on which to browse. African wild asses do not form permanent social groups, but typically live in small, changing groups. Males are often solitary and will defend a territory around a water source, mating with any receptive visiting females. Pregnancy in the female African wild ass lasts for one year, and a single foal is usually produced every other year.
Although domestic donkeys are now numerous, only a few hundred African wild ass remain in the wild. Competition with domestic livestock for grazing, restricted access to water supplies caused by agricultural developments, interbreeding with domestic animals and poaching all pose a threat to this species. The African wild ass is currently protected by law throughout its range, although these measures often prove difficult to enforce.
Find out more about the African wild ass on the EDGE website.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author