Mongolian wild ass
|Mongolian wild ass|
|Subspecies:||E. h. hemionus|
|Equus hemionus hemionus
Equus hemonius luteus
The Mongolian wild ass (Equus hemionus hemionus, also called the khulan, Mongolian: Хулан) is a subspecies of the onager. It is found in Mongolia and northern China, and was previously found in Kazakhstan before being extirpated there through hunting. It may be synonymous with the possible proposed separate subspecies, the Gobi khulan (Equus hemionus luteus, also called the chigetai or dziggetai).
The Mongolian wild ass's distribution range was dramatically reduced during the 1990s. A 1994–1997 survey estimated its population size at 33,000 to 63,000 individuals over a continuous distribution range encompassing all of southern Mongolia. In 2003, a new survey found approximately 20,000 individuals over an area of 177,563 square kilometres (68,557 sq mi) in southern Mongolia. The population estimates of the Mongolian population should be treated with caution due to a lack of proven survey protocols. Despite that, the subspecies lost about 50% of its former distribution range in Mongolia in the past 70 years.
The population is declining due to poaching and competition from grazing livestock. The conservation status of the species is evaluated as endangered. Since 1953, the Mongolian wild ass has been fully protected in Mongolia. The subspecies is also listed at appendix I of CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) and was added to appendix II of the Convention of Migratory Species in 2002. However, due to human population growth in conjunction with severe winters in the past years, the number of conflicts between herders and Mongolian wild asses appear on the increase. Information on the basic biology of the subspecies and how it differs from others is lacking, which hampers conservation efforts.
Poaching for meat appears to be an increasing problem in Mongolia. For some parts of the local population, wild ass and other wildlife meat seems to provide a substitute or even a cheap alternative to meat from domestic animals. In 2005, a national survey based on questionnaires, suggested that as many as 4,500 wild asses, about 20% of the whole population, may be poached each year. Moreover, political changes in the early 1990s allowed urban populations to return to nomadic land use, resulting in a sharp increase in human- and livestock numbers in many rural areas.
Political and societal changes have disrupted traditional land use patterns, weakened law enforcement and also changed attitudes towards the use of natural resources, e.g., making wildlife an "open access" resource. It is expected that the re-migration of people and their livestock will result in increased wildlife–human interactions and may well threaten the survival of rare wildlife species in the Gobi Desert.
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