Somali Wild Ass
Saving the Somali wild ass
Conservationists estimate that there are as little as a few hundred of these animals remaining in isolated populations in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Such drastic declines are due to hunting, competition with livestock and hybridisation with domestic equids. This species is of significant conservation, taxonomic and cultural importance since it represents the only surviving wild African ass. Without a coordinated conservation effort this species will become extinct.
In captivity the Somali wild ass is intensively managed through an EEP (Endangered Species Breeding Programme) which aims to maintain a genetically diverse and stable population.
However, this EEP faces a number of issues due to its small founder population and therefore requires careful and intensive genetic management.
Over the years the EEP has worked hard to establish new populations within zoos, explored the success and issues faced by the management of bachelor herds (critical to long term breeding management) as well as conducting valuable genetic studies. To ensure the best long term management decisions are made for this species the Somali wild ass EEP is composed of a coordinator and several Species Committee members.
Woburn Safari Park's Head of Reserves, Chris Smart sits on this Species Committee and has assisted the coordinator in the critical management decisions required by this EEP. As with many EEP’s it is not simply about breeding animals but providing resources, expertise, biological knowledge of the species, genetic data as well as publicising the need to conserve wildlife.