African Wild Ass

True Wild Life | African Wild Ass | The African Wild Ass is a wild member of the horse family, Equidae. This species is believed to be the ancestor of the domestic donkey which is usually placed within the same species. They live in the deserts and other arid areas of northeastern Africa, in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia; it formerly had a wider range north and west into Sudan, Egypt and Libya. About 570 individuals exist in the wild. The African Wild Ass is suited for life in the desert, capable of going on for up to three days without drinking water.

African wild asses are well suited to life in a desert or semidesert environment. They have tough digestive systems, which can break down desert vegetation and extract moisture from food efficiently. They can also go without water for a fairly long time. Their large ears give them an excellent sense of hearing and help in cooling. Because of the sparse vegetation in their environment wild asses live somewhat separated from each other (except for mothers and young), unlike the tightly grouped herds of wild horses. They have very loud voices, which can be heard for over 3 km, which helps them to keep in contact with other asses over the wide spaces of the desert.

The African Wild asses can run swiftly, almost as fast as a horse. However, unlike most hoofed mammals, their tendency is to not flee right away from a potentially dangerous situation, but to investigate first before deciding what to do. When they need to, they can defend themselves with kicks from both their front and hind legs. The African Wild Ass eats plant material, often eating thorn bushes and tougher plants that other animals ignore. They need to have water at least every three days, but they are able to survive on water that is dirty and brackish and can get a lot of their moisture from the plant material that they eat.

Sexual maturity of the female ass usually happens by the time she reaches two. Males can also reproduce at two, but it is so competitive that they usually are forced to wait until they are around four. Males are very territorial and will often hold a huge territory that is about 23 km, and they mark the edges of their territories with dung. Other males are allowed in, but they are kept away from the females as much as possible. Male donkeys will bray when the females are in season, and a dominant male of a territory has first right to breed with any female that comes around. The gestational period usually lasts 11-12 months, and the females in the wild usually give birth only once every two years. The young are weaned at about six months of age, and the animals can live approximately 40 years.

In addition to their struggle with domesticated livestock to secure food and water, the African Wild Ass also became a hunted animal for consumption and medicine. Many dangerous weapons found their way into the homeland of the African Wild Ass due to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. There is a concern that these weapons will be used more often from now on to hunt more of the African Wild Ass. Currently, there is a protection program in progress to move the African Wild Ass into a protected area of Israel.