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52. African Wild Ass

Equus africanus


The African wild ass is a hardy animal which is well adapted to desert life.

It can sustain water loss of up to 30% of its body weight, and can drink enough water in two to five minutes to restore fluid loss. The species was domesticated about 6,000 years ago, and is mentioned frequently in the Bible. Domestic donkey are now found all over the world, yet only a few hundred of their wild ancestors survive. They are Equids, a formerly diverse family that today is only represented by the genus Equus, which only has 7 species within it. Furthermore, their order; Perisodactyla was also formerly diverse and widespread, but today is only represented by Equids, tapir, and rhinos; totalling 17 species. Populations of wild asses are decreasing as a result of hunting, both for meat and traditional medicine, competition with livestock for limited desert resources, and hybridization with domestic donkey.

  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Equidae
  • Population: <600
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 2m
  • Weight: 250kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.34 (?)
ED Score: 12.05 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


The species is now found only as small scattered populations in northeast Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

Habitat and Ecology

The species inhabits arid areas such as hilly and stony deserts, arid and semi-arid bushlands and grasslands. It avoids sandy areas, such as the dune regions of the Sahara, access to surface water is essential. They are predominantly grazers, eating mostly grasses when available, but also herbs. The females give birth to one foal every other year, with gestation taking a year

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Droughts Livestock Hunting Wars Invasive species

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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