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24 July 2013, 07:18
It may look like a donkey or a young zebra but Marwell Wildlife is pleased to announce the birth of a Somali wild ass at its zoo, a species which is critically endangered in the wild.
Nthanda was born on the 9th July at Marwell, the name means star in Tumbuka. Nthanda increases the number of a species which has been labelled critically endangered since 1996. Today the Somali wild ass can only be found in the harsh and remote deserts of Eritrea, northern Ethiopia and Somalia.
Ian Goodwin, Collection Manager of Hoofstock says: "She is doing really well and it's great watching her find her feet and play around the paddock. She is a vital addition to the EEP (European Endangered species breeding programme) and this is a great achievement for Marwell."
The main threats that face the Somali wild ass are hunting for food and hides, habitat reduction and competition for water with livestock. A further problem for the species is hybridisation as the local donkeys can get very friendly with their wild cousins. When the rare wild ass produce offspring with the domesticated donkeys, less pure wild ass are born and this accelerates a slide to extinction of the wild species. How many individuals of this beautiful species remain is unknown, but estimates are as little as 280.
Marwell has always been key in the conservation of this special breed and the first ever British born Somali wild ass was born at Marwell in 1996.
Tanya Langenhorst, Conservation Biologist explains: "The Somali wild ass is critically endangered and the most threatened of all equid species, so we are very excited about the birth of this beautiful foal . Estimates suggest that there are only a few hundred individuals left in the wild."