New at the Zoo: Endangered Somali Wild Asses
June 01, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
L. Lamor Williams
Critically endangered Somali wild asses now on display at Little Rock Zoo
LITTLE ROCK (June 1, 2016) – Native to the horn of Africa, two new Somali wild asses are settling into their new home at the Little Rock Zoo. Critically endangered, wild asses differ from horses and zebras in their smaller size, larger ears, tufted tail, stiff mane, and characteristic loud bray.
While quite different from other members of the horse family, guests will notice similarities that hint at their family connection to zebras. Wild asses have bristly upright manes and their pale legs have the zebra’s characteristic black-and-white stripes. The stripes make for a stunning contrast to a soft gray upper body that looks purplish in the right light, a white belly and spiky black-and-gray mane.
To be listed as critically endangered, the probability of extinction in the wild is at least 50 percent within 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer. Zoo Director Mike Blakely said the two male Somali asses are a part of the Species Survival Plan which makes breeding recommendations and helps participating zoos find mates for threatened species.
“We hope to get a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. If we do, one of the males will be moved and we hope to acquire a couple of females and one day have foals that will help keep the species from extinction,” Blakely said.
Blakely said the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates there to be fewer than 2,500 Somali wild asses left in their native habitats.
“Not only do these animals compete with people and livestock for food and water sources; they are also hunted for food, skins, and used in traditional medicines,” Blakely said. “Complicating the problem is that humans often leave their female domesticated donkeys out at night to freely interbreed with the wild asses hoping to strengthen the stock of their herds. This further threatens the species.”
About the Zoo
The Little Rock Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, visit www.aza.org.