The African Wild Ass has a limited range in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia. This is the ancestor of the domestic donkey. Taxonomic treatments vary, but Rubenstein (2011) treats the African Wild Ass and the domestic donkey as two distinct species, Equus africanus and E. asinus, respectively.
The African Wild Ass inhabits hilly and stony deserts, as well as semi-desert grasslands and euphorbia and aloe shrublands receiving 100 to 200 mm annual rainfall. Sandy habitats are avoided. African Wild Asses have been found up to 1500 m elevation in Ethiopia.
African Wild Asses mainly graze on various grasses. They can lose up to 30% of their body weight in water, then replenish this loss in just a few minutes when water is available. Nevertheless, they must drink every few days and are rarely found more than 30 km from a water source. They live in small groups, typically consisting of fewer than five animals, with mostly short-term associations (except between a mother and her young). The life span is thought to be around 25 to 30 years.
This species is critically endangered and currently occupies only a small portion of its historical range, which once included large stretches of northern Africa. It is threatened by hunting for food and body parts used in traditional healing, competition with livestock for food and water, and possibly interbreeding with domestic donkeys.
(Rubenstein 2011 and references therein)
- Rubenstein, D.I. 2011. African Wild Ass (Equus africanus. Pp. 140-141 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.