The Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis) is a subspecies of the African wild ass. It is found in Somalia, the Southern Red Sea region of Eritrea, and the Afar Region of Ethiopia.
Current distribution and habitat
There are likely less than 1000 animals (or even 700) in the wild and the IUCN Red List of endangered species described it as "critically endangered". This means they face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
A few hundred specimens live in Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Their legs have horizontal black stripes, resembling those of a zebra.
As of 2011, there are about 200 individuals in captivity around the globe living in 34 zoos, as well as three animals in Hai-Bar, Israel (as of 2009). The international studbook is managed by Tierpark Berlin.
The leading zoo for breeding this rare ass is Zoo Basel, Switzerland. Its breeding programmanages the European studbook for the Somali wild ass and coordinates the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) – as well as the global species committee of the Somali Wild Ass since 2004.
Basel started having Somali wild asses in 1970 and had its first birth in 1972. Since then, 11 stallions and 24 females (as of 2009) were born and survived childhood. Today, all Somali wild donkeys in captivity are related to the original group at Zoo Basel.
As of January 18, 2012, there are four Somali wild donkeys in Basel: The stallion "Gigolo" (3) and three females (among them "Yogala"-14).
Only three institutions breed Somali wild ass in the United States: St. Louis Zoo, San Diego Zoo, and White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida. White Oak received a herd in 2008 as part of an international effort to save Somali wild ass from extinction. Since then, the herd has produced 18 foals, including several born in spring 2013.
Domestic donkeys found in Italy are typically descended from the Somali wild ass, as opposed to those from other European countries where domesticated stock are usually descended from the Nubian wild ass.
A conservation project (mainly supported by Zoo Basel) in the Northeast African country of Eritrea counts 47 Somali wild asses living in the mountains between the Buri Peninsula and the Dalool ditch.
A protected population of the Somali wild ass exists in the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in Israel, to the north of Eilat. This reserve was established in 1968 with the view to bolster populations of endangered desert species.