About African wild asses DonkeysAbout African wild asses Donkeys

African wild asses or African wild donkey (Equus africanus) are a wild member of the horse family, Equidae. African wild asses are the ancestor of the domestic donkey.

They live in the deserts and other arid areas of the Horn of Africa, in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. They formerly had a wider range north and west into Sudan, Egypt, and Libya. Their diet consists of grasses, bark, and leaves. Despite being primarily adapted for living in an arid climate, they are dependent on water, and when not receiving the needed moisture from vegetation, they must drink at least once every three days. However, they can survive on a surprisingly small amount of liquid, and have been reported to drink salty or brackish water.

African wild asses are well suited to life in a desert or semi-desert 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 (1.9 mi), which helps them to keep in contact with other asses over the wide spaces of the desert.

They are primarily active in the cooler hours between late afternoon and early morning – they seek shade and shelter among the rocky hills during the day.

African Wild asses can run swiftly, almost as fast as a horse. On the flat, they have been recorded reaching speeds of 70 km/h (43 mph). They are very agile and nimble-footed, capable of moving quickly across boulder fields and in the mountains. In keeping with these feats, its soles are particularly hard and its hooves grow very quickly.  

Mature males defend large territories around 23 square kilometers, marking them with dung heaps - an essential marker in the flat, monotonous terrain. Due to the size of these ranges, the dominant male cannot exclude other males. Rather, intruders are tolerated - recognized and treated as subordinates, and kept as far away as possible from any of the resident females. In the presence of estrous females, the males bray loudly. These animals live in loose herds of up to fifty individuals.  

In the wild, breeding of African wild ass occurs in wet season. Gestation period lasts for 11 to 12 months, given birth one foal from October to February. The foals weans for 6 to 8 month after birth, reaching sexual maturity 2 years after birth. Their lifespan is up to 40 years in captivity.  

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.

They are listed by IUCN as critically endangered. There are fewer than 1000 individuals, and possibly considerably less, remaining in the wild. It is the world's most endangered equine.