Somali wild ass

The Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis)[4] is a subspecies of the African wild ass.

Somali wild ass
Somali Wild Ass.JPG
At St. Louis Zoo
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Genus: Equus
E. a. somaliensis
Trinomial name
Equus africanus somaliensis
(Noack, 1884)[2]
  • Asinus taeniopus var. Somaliensis Noack, 1884
  • Equus asinus somalicus Sclater, 1884[3]

It is found in Somalia, the Southern Red Sea region of Eritrea, and the Afar Region of Ethiopia. The legs of the Somali wild ass are striped, resembling those of its relative, the zebra.

Current distribution and habitatEdit

There are likely fewer than 1,000 animals (or even 700) in the wild[5] 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, Somaliland, Eritrea and Ethiopia.[6]


Somali Wild Asses typically give birth in the spring, a common characteristic among equids, after a year-long gestation. Within hours, the foal is up on its legs and keeping up with its mother. At around five days old, the foal is already nibbling grass. By the time its two weeks old, the foal is grazing regularly, however, still depending on its mother's milk for fluids. The foal is weaned by 12 to 14 months, but still stays close to its mother, only leaving to play or feed with the other foals in the herd.


Due to the limited resources found in their habitat, Somali Wild Asses live in a fission-fusion society. Most adults live alone, but sometimes form small herds consisting of females and their young. In areas that have more resources, or have more rain, they will sometimes fuse together to form larger temporary herds. Stallions can maintain territories as large as nine square miles. They frequently leave dung piles as markers to remind them of their territory's boundaries. While females are welcome in their territories, stallions will often fight other males who try to mate with females in their territories. However, stallions have been observed allowing males into their territories for grazing, as long as they show no interest in his harem.[7]


Global populationEdit

As of 2011, there were about 200 individuals in captivity around the globe[6] living in 34 zoos, as well as three animals (as of 2009) in the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve in Israel, to the north of Eilat.[8] The international studbook is managed by Tierpark Berlin.[9]

Zoo BaselEdit

Somali Wild Ass at Zoo Basel

The leading zoo for breeding this rare ass is Zoo Basel, Switzerland. Its breeding program manages the European studbook for the Somali wild ass and coordinates the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP)[10] – as well as the global species committee of the Somali Wild Ass since 2004.[8]

Zoo Basel started keeping 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.[11] Today, all Somali wild donkeys in captivity are related to the original group at Zoo Basel.[9]

As of January 18, 2012, there are four Somali wild donkeys in Basel: The stallion "Gigolo" (3) and three females (among them "Yogala"-14).[12]


Since 1987, the Réserve Africaine de Sigean, in the south of France, has had a number of Somali wild asses, with births occurring regularly, including two on June 30, 2010, and March 29, 2013.[13][14]

United StatesEdit

Only five institutions breed Somali wild ass in the United States:[15] Dallas Zoo, St. Louis Zoo,[16] San Diego Zoo Safari Park,[17] Zoo Miami, and White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida.[15] 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.[15] The Dallas Zoo has just had two Somali wild ass foals, both female, one born July 9 and the other on July 19, 2017. The St. Louis Zoo's most recent birth was on July 30, 2019.[18]

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to eleven Somali Wild Asses, the largest population of Somali Wild Asses in North America. The park received its first herd from the Basel Zoo in 1981. Their first foal was born in 1986. Since then, 49 foals have been born, the most recent being a female born on March 17, 2018. San Diego Zoo Global also works to help save this endangered species in the wild.[7][19]


Two Somali Wild Ass at Marwell Zoo

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.[20][citation needed]


A conservation project (mainly supported by Zoo Basel) in Eritrea counted (before 2014) 47 Somali wild asses living in the mountains between the Buri Peninsula and the Dallol Depression, which is within the larger Danakil Depression, near Eritrea's border with Ethiopia.[21][22][23][24]

As mentioned above, a protected population of the Somali wild ass exists in the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve. This Israeli reserve was established in 1968 with the view to bolster populations of endangered desert species.


  1. ^ Moehlman, P.D.; Kebede, F.; Yohannes, H. (2015). "Equus africanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015: e.T7949A45170994. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T7949A45170994.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021. Assessment includes information on conservation status of two recognised subspecies.
  2. ^ (in German) Noack, Th. (1884). "Neues aus der Tierhandlung von Karl Hagenbeck, sowie aus dem Zoologischen Garten in Hamburg". Der Zoologische Garten 25: 100-115.
  3. ^ Sclater, P.L. (1884). "On some mammals from Somali-land". Proceedings of the Scientific Meetings of the Zoological Society of London 1884: 538-542, pls. 49-50.
  4. ^ a b Groves, C.P., & Smeenk, C. (June 2007). "The nomenclature of the African wild ass". Zoologische Mededelingen 81(1). HTM, PDF
  5. ^ Bonner, Jeffrey (June 1, 2008). "What's the Zoo to do with its Somali wild ass problem?". St. Louis Post-Dispatch & Saint Louis Zoo. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Seltene Schönheit - Somali-Wildeselfohlen bezaubert das Zolli-Publikum" (in German). Zoo Basel. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  7. ^ a b Perkins, Wendy (5 June 2017). "Somali Wild Ass". ZOONOOZ.
  8. ^ a b "Somali-Wildesel (Equus africanus somalicus)". Förderprojekte der Werner Stamm Stiftung (in German). Werner Stamm Stiftung. Archived from the original on 2013-12-21. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  9. ^ a b "Somali-Wildesel" (in German). Verband Deutscher Zoodirektoren. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  10. ^ "INDIAN RHINO VISION (IRV) 2020" (in German). Zoo Basel. 8 May 2008. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Zweites Somali-Wildeselfohlen im Zolli geboren" (in German). Zoo Basel. 27 December 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  12. ^ "Dance of the Somali wild asses". Zoo Basel. 18 January 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  13. ^ "Naissance rare au zoo de Sigean: un âne de Somalie!" (in French). Le Huffington Post (French-language edition of the Huffington Post). July 7, 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  14. ^ "Une naissance très rare à la Réserve de Sigean" (in French). La Dépêche du Midi. April 27, 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  15. ^ a b c "Somali Wild Ass". Animal Programs. White Oak. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  16. ^ "Somali wild ass born at St. Louis Zoo". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 13 April 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  17. ^ "Three Somali Wild Ass Foals Born At San Diego Zoo Safari Park". San Diego Zoo. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  18. ^ "Somali wild ass foal born July 30, 2019". 27 August 2019.
  19. ^ Relations, Public (12 April 2018). "Somali Wild Ass Foal Explores Habitat". ZOONOOZ.
  20. ^ "Pompeii Horse Is in Fact an Ass". BBC. 3 November 2010.
  21. ^ "Somali Wild Ass Research Project in Eritrea". Conservation projects. Zoo Basel. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Somali Wild Ass in Eritrea". Conservation projects. Zoo Basel. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  23. ^ Moehlman, Patricia D.; Yohannes, Hagos; Teclai, Redae; Hagos, Futsum (August 2014). "Report to Basel Zoo - African wild ass (Equus africanus): Population dynamics, distribution and status in Eritrea" (PDF). Zoo Basel. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  24. ^ Kebede, Fanuel (July 2015). "Research and Community-Based Conservation of the African Wild Ass in the Danakil Desert of Ethiopia: Field Report" (PDF). Zoo Basel. Retrieved 12 April 2017.


External linksEdit