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Equus hemionus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA PERISSODACTYLA EQUIDAE

Scientific Name: Equus hemionus
Species Authority: Pallas, 1775
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name/s:
English Asiatic Wild Ass, Kulan, Asian Wild Ass
French Hémippe, Ane sauvage d'Asie, Hémione, Onagre, Turkmene
Spanish Asno Salvaje Asiático, Hemiono
Synonym/s:
Equus bahram (Pocock, 1947)
Equus bedfordi Matschie, 1911
Equus blanfordi (Pocock, 1947)
Equus castaneus Lydekker, 1904
Equus dzigguetai (Wood, 1879)
Equus ferus Erxleben, 1777 [nomen oblitum]
Equus finschi Matschie, 1911
Equus hamar C.H. Smith, 1841
Equus hemionos Boddaert, 1785
Equus hemippus. I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1855
Equus indicus George, 1869
Equus indicus (Sclater, 1862) [nomen nudum]
Equus khur Lesson, 1827
Equus kulan (Groves & Mazák, 1967)
Equus luteus Matschie, 1911
Equus onager Boddaert, 1785
Equus onager Pallas, 1777 [unavailable]
Equus syriacus Milne-Edwards, 1869
Equus typicus Sclater, 1891

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2abc+3bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Moehlman, P.D., Shah, N. & Feh, C.
Reviewer/s: Rubenstein, D. & Flander, M. (Equid Red List Authority)
Justification:
Listed as Endangered as the Asiatic Wild Ass is estimated to have declined by more than 50% over the past 16 years based on direct observation and potential/actual levels of exploitation. The Asiatic Wild Ass is also estimated to continue declining by more than 50% over the next 10 to 21 years.
History:
2002 Vulnerable
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: In historic times the Asiatic Wild Ass ranged through much of Mongolia, north to Transbaikalia (Russia), east to northeastern Inner Mongolia (China) and possibly western Manchuria (China), and west to Dzhungarian Gate (Grubb 2005). It formerly occurred in Kazakhstan, north to the upper Irtysh and Ural Rivers in Russia, and westward north of the Caucasus and Black Sea to at least the Dniestr River (Ukraine), Anatolia (Turkey), Syria, and southeast of the Caspian Sea in Iran, northern Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, east to Thar Desert of northwestern India (Grubb 2005). It also extended through the Arabian Peninsula as far south as central Saudi Arabia. It survived in Armenia and Azerbaijan until 17th-18th Centuries (Wolfe 1979). The Syrian Wild Ass became extinct in 1927.

By the 19th Century, their range had declined significantly. Today, the most abundant subpopulation of the species occurs in the southern part of Mongolia and adjacent northern China (Feh et al. 2002). The species also survives as isolated populations in the Rann of Kutch (India), the Badkhyz Preserve (Turkmenistan) and at Touran National Park and Bahramgor Reserve (Iran) (Feh et al. 2002). Populations have been re-established as follows: Barsa-Khelmes Island in the Aral Sea (Kazakhstan); Aktay-Buzachinskiy reserve on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea (Kazakhstan); Andasayskiy reserve and Kapchagayskoye in southeastern Kazakhstan; Dzheiran Ecocentre near Bukhara (Uzbekistan); Meana-Chaacha, Kaakha, Kopet Dag, and Sumbar Valley in southern Turkmenistan (re-introduced populations in Kurtusu and Germab perhaps no longer survive); Sarakamish Lake in northern Turkmenistan; the Beruchi Peninsula (Ukraine), the Negev (southern Israel), and Taïf (Saudi Arabia) (Feh et al. 2002). The re-established populations in Ukraine, Israel and Saudi Arabia are not of the subspecies that originally occurred there (Feh et al. 2002).

There are five generally recognized subspecies (Grubb 2005):
Equus h. hemionus - the Mongolian Khulan (in northern Mongolia) (E. h. luteus - the Gobi Khulan in southern Mongolia and northern China, is probably a synonym of E. h. hemionus (Oakenfull et al. 2000, Grubb 2005))
E. h. khur – the Khur (India)
E. h. kulan the Turkmen Kulan (in Turkmenistan, re-introduced in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine)
E. h. onager - the Onager (Iran, introduced in Saudi Arabia)
E. h. hemippus – the Syrian Wild Ass (Extinct, formerly from Syria south into the Arabian Peninsula)
The reintroduced population in Israel is of hybrid origin (E. h. onager and E. h. kulan).

The largest surviving subpopulation, the Mongolian Khulan (Equus h. hemionus) is in Mongolia, where it was formerly widely distributed throughout steppe and semi-desert habitats, from the extreme west of the country to the Mongolian-Russian-Chinese border in the extreme northeast (Feh et al. 2002, Clark et al. 2006). The Asiatic Wild Ass has experienced a major decline in population size and range size, even in Mongolia (Bannikov 1981) and they are now only found in the Trans Altai Gobi Desert, the Northern Gobi, the Alashani Gobi Desert and the Dzungarian Gobi Desert (Reading et al. 2001, Feh et al. 2002), as far north as Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve in the Eastern Gobi (S. Amgalanbaatar and R. Reading pers. obs.). Recent evidence suggests that the population has either expanded or shifted further north and east over the past 20-25 years, but rarely crosses the Ulaanbaatar-Beijing railway line (Kaczensky et al. in prep.). There are important populations in the Great Gobi Section B Strictly Protected Area, in Dzungarian Gobi, and the Great Gobi Section A Strictly Protected Area in Trans Altai Govi Desert (Feh et al. 2002, Stubbe et al. 2005, Kaczensky et al. in prep.).

The Khur Equus hemionus khur was formerly widespread in the arid zone of northwestern India and Pakistan, westwards through much of central Asia. However, it is now limited to the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India. The khur probably went extinct in Baluchistan and the extreme south of Pakistan, on the Indian border, during the 1960s (Corbet and Hill 1992). There are some recent records of Khur along India-Pakistan border. During the last two decades Khur has shown range expansion along with an increase in their population (Shah 2004).
Countries:
Native:
China; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Mongolia; Turkmenistan
Regionally extinct:
Afghanistan; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; Georgia; Iraq; Jordan; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Russian Federation; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Turkey
Reintroduced:
Israel; Kazakhstan; Saudi Arabia; Ukraine; Uzbekistan
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: During the past century the total population and range of Asiatic Wild Ass has declined significantly (Clark and Duncan 1992, Feh et al. 2002).

The largest remaining subspecies population is the Mongolian Khulan (E. h. hemionus) which was estimated in 2003 at 18,411 +/- 898 in four areas (Lkhagvasuren 2007). Southern Mongolia currently holds the largest population of Asiatic Wild Ass in the world, representing almost 80% of the global population (Feh et al. 2002). However, this population is at risk due to illegal hunting and numbers have declined significantly from an estimated population size of 43,165 in 1997 (Feh et al. 2001, Reading et al. 2001). There may be as many as 4,800 to 6,000 Khulan in the Kalameili Reserve in China, but this may be a seasonal population that is migrating from Mongolia (Pantel et al 2006). Offtake for the illegal meat trade is estimated at 3,000 individuals per year. Recruitment (number of offspring) varies from 3-23%. The potential net loss per year may be 5-10%. In 21 years or 3 generations, the population decline will be greater than 50%. If illegal hunting continues in Mongolia, the potential decline of this important population will be 5-10% per year. The Kulan population in Turkmenistan is also at risk due to illegal hunting.

The next largest subpopulation is the Indian Khur (E. h. khur) with an estimated population in 2004 of 3,900 in the Little Rann of Kutch (Shah and Qureshi 2007). This is the only subpopulation of Asiatic Wild Ass that has had a steady increase in population size since 1976 to the present. The population increase is associated with range expansion, khur has occupied areas beyond ~200 km away from its source population in Little Rann of Kutch (Shah and Qureshi 2007).

The Kulan (E. h. kulan) populations in 2005 were approximately 1,300 in Turkmenistan (Badkhys Reserve 850-900 and seven reintroduction sites (445) (Lukarevskiy and Gorelov 2007) The Kulan has experienced a recent dramatic decline in its main population in Turkmenistan. The population in the Badkhyz Preserve declined from 6,000 in 1993, to 2,400 in 1998 to 646 in 2000 (Feh et al. 2002). From 1995 to 2000 the estimated number of Kulan in reintroduction sites was approximately 320. In 1992 the reintroduced populations in Kazakhstan were Barsa-Khelmes Island : 96 ; Aktau-Busatchinski: uncertain; Andasaiski reserve: 164 ; Kaptchagaiskoye: 150 for a total of 410. In 1999, the reintroduced populations in Kazakhstan in these four sites was approximately 900 animals (Pereladova and Baidavletov pers. com. 2006). The reintroduced population in Uzbekistan in Dzheiran Ecocentre was 34 in 1991 (Feh et al. 2002).

Information on the status of the Onager in Iran (E. h. onager) is limited, but recent estimates are 600 in the two protected areas (L. Shamimi, pers.com. 2007). There were 471 animals in Touran National Park in 2000, and 96 in Bahramgor Reserve in 1996, with four re-introduced animals in Yazd Province in 2000 (Feh et al. 2002). There were also five E. h. onager in Taïf (Saudi Arabia) in 2000, and the hybrid E. h. onager x E. h. kulan population in Israel numbered 100 in 2000.

The global population of mature Asiatic Wild Ass has declined by 52% population in the last 16 years. It occurs in 14 locations and is severely fragmented. Generation length in Equus hemionus is seven years, age at first reproduction for females is 5 years, females produce one live foal every three years, sex-ratio at birth is 50/50, first year survival rate is approximately 50%, second year survival rate is approximately 50%, and only half of the stallions reproduce, yielding an approximately one-third of the population being ‘mature individuals’ (Feh et al 2001). The current estimated number of mature individuals is 8358. The estimated global population decline in the future is >50% due to illegal hunting.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Asiatic Wild Ass inhabit mountain steppe, steppe, semi-desert and desert plains. They are usually found in desert steppe. Typically they are grazers and in Mongoia (Gobi B) throughout the year they eat Stipa glareosa, Agropyron cristatum and Achnatherum (Feh 2001). They can be found in rocky or sandy areas associated with Artemisia, grasses, Anabasis spp., Russian thistle (Salsola spp.), saxaul (Haloxylon ammodendron) and pea shrubs (Caragana spp.) (Harris and Miller 1995, Feh et al. 2001). To date, there have been few detailed studies of Asiatic Wild Ass feeding ecology. However, observations suggest a feeding strategy similar to that observed in other equids in xeric environments. When grass is plentiful, Asiatic Wild Ass are predominately grazers. During dry season and in drier habitats, Asiatic Wild Ass will browse a large portion of their diet. While Asiatic Wild Ass eat woody plants, other forage is taken when possible. Animals have been observed eating seed pods (Shah 1993) and using their hooves to break up woody vegetation to obtain more succulent forbs growing at the base of the woody plants. Herds can number up to 1,200 individuals. Water sources are an important determinant of distribution; in summer months the species occurs within 10-15 km of standing water, and this range increases five-fold in winter when it is not restricted by water availability. In Mongolia, Asiatic Wild Ass have been observed digging holes as deep as 60 cm in dry riverbeds to access water, eating snow during winter as a substitute (Feh et al. 2002; Stubbe et al. 2005).

Asiatic Wild Ass weigh approximately 200–260 kg. Gestation is 11 months and breeding is seasonal. Peak birthing season occurs between April and September – within any one subpopulation, births tend to occur over a two to three month span with a peak between mid June and mid July (Feh et al 2002).

There have been a number of studies on social organisation and behavioural ecology of Asiatic asses. These studies have been conducted on several of the Asiatic Wild Ass populations throughout their range. While the explanations and terminology describing the species’ mating system do not necessarily coincide, there are similarities in the observations. In all studies, breeding is seasonal and females with young tend to group together in relatively small groups (two to five females). Descriptions of male breeding strategies differ considerably (Feh et al 2002).

Early studies were mostly descriptive. Both Solomatins and Rasheks long term studies based mostly on individual follow-ups described a harem type social structure in Turkmene Kulan harem-style behaviour (Bannikov 1958, Solomatin 1973, Rashek 1973) whereas Klingel’s one week observations described a territorial system. Bannikov’s short term survey in Mongolia described harems or family groups. Both harem-style behaviour (Bannikov 1958, Solomatin 1973, Rashek 1973) and territorial defence (Klingel 1977) social systems were described. Since 1980, several detailed studies have been carried out on various subspecies: Khur in the Little Rann of Kutch (Shah 1993), Khulan in Mongolia (Feh et al. 1994, Feh et al. 2001), and the reintroduced Kulan/Onager hybrids in Israel (Saltz and Rubenstein 1995, Saltz et al. 2000). Two studies, Shah (1993) and Saltz et al. (2000), describe systems in which individual stallions either defend territories or form all-male groups. Four social units are identified in Khur; family group, stallion, all male group and displaced stallion (Shah and Qureshi 2007). Stallions in the Rann of Kutch exhibit both seasonal and year-round territoriality with females, forming small seasonal harems (Shah 1993, Shah and Qureshi, 2007). Territorial stallions defend territories throughout the year in the Rann of Kutch. Females remain on territories during the breeding season (monsoon season), with some females remaining on one territory and others moving between territories (Shah 1993, Shah and Qureshi, 2007). A few mares continue to remain on territories all year round. Shah (1993) refers to the two groupings as year-round and seasonal harems. The term “harem” maybe misleading here, as the stallion behaviour describes resource defence rather than guarding of females, and the “item” at stake is land. Shah (1993) states that “the quality of the territory seems to be a prime determinant of dominance”. This is similar to territory stallion dominance witnessed in Grévy’s zebra (Ginsberg 1989). Within the Rann of Kutch, female movements were often limited to single territories, thereby creating “harem-like” female groupings (Shah 1993). However, females are able to move freely between territories, thereby describing a system in which female movement adapts to changing resource availability, as well as mate preference. Khur have territorial harem type social organization (Shah and Qureshi 2007). Rainfall and productivity of food resources determine the khur recruitment and population growth rate (Shah and Qureshi 2007).

Similar social behaviour has been documented in the reintroduced population of wild asses in the Negev, Israel. The study in Israel is unique in that it has documented a growing population of all known individual females and territorial stallions. The study has followed the population from having one territorial stallion to more than seven. Males return to the main breeding area (an area with permanent water sources) each spring, several weeks before the females return (Saltz et al. 2000). The majority of males return to the same territories that they held in previous years; non-territorial males either form small all-male groups in the breeding area or remain in the winter grazing areas. Females return within a few weeks and foal almost immediately. Females form groups on territories but group membership remains fluid. This fission-fusion social system (Rubenstein 1986, Rubenstein et al. 2007) has some females remaining on one territory throughout the breeding season while others switch territories regularly.

In the Gobi B National Park (Mongolia), both Bannikov (1958) and Feh et al. (1994, 2001) suggest that Khulan social behaviour is similar to that of feral horses. Feh et al. (1994, 2001) describe family groups consisting of individual males with several females and their foals moving to and from water sources, but the study is based on only a small number of identified individuals. In addition, stallions were observed to herd females. This behaviour is similar to that found in feral horses (although some of the specific postures differed) and is not common among the other subspecies studied. Khur have territorial harem where stallions defend resources and benefit from having access to mares on these territories (Shah 1993, Shah and Qureshi 2007). In Gobi B, stallions were observed to defend both females and foals from predators (Feh et al. 1994). Feh et al. (1994, 2001) suggest that khulan behaviour in Gobi B is different from other populations as a direct response to predation pressure from cooperatively hunting wolves.

Further study of known individuals is necessary to fully understand the social behaviour of Asiatic wild ass. It is likely that differences in social structure and behaviour depend on climatic seasonality, vegetation cover, and predator hunting pressures. Additional clarification of social structure and the factors that influence animal movement and behaviour (e.g. climatic and anthropogenic factors, grazing pressure, etc.) can provide a helpful tool in understanding threats to individual populations. The studies briefly outlined above demonstrate that there is a great deal of flexibility within the species’ social structure. With increasing levels of desertification and habitat fragmentation, all the above and future studies should be consulted in the formation of habitat and species conservation plans Feh et al 2002, Rubenstein et al. 2007).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats to the species include loss of habitat as a result of human settlement, cultivation, overgrazing, developmental activities, conflict with humans (crop depredation), competition for water, salt extraction, poaching for meat, competition with domestic livestock and, in certain parts of the range, war and civil unrest have had a detrimental effect on the species (Clark and Duncan 1992; Feh et al. 2002). Perhaps the greatest threat to the populations of Asiatic Wild Ass appears to be the potential for catastrophic population declines due to poaching (i.e., kulan in Turkmenistan and hemionus in Mongolia). Disease and/or drought are “stress events” that are a constant threat to small, isolated Wild Ass populations, such as those in India, Iran, Israel, and Turkmenistan. For example, a disease outbreak of African horse sickness in the 1960s resulted in a major decline and the extinction of small Khur populations (Gee 1963). Continued fragmentation and marginalisation of the smaller populations could result in similar extinctions. Small, isolated populations are demographically and genetically vulnerable.

Specific threats to particular populations are outlined below:

The main threats to the Onager (Equus hemionus onager) in Iran are, in decreasing order of severity, poaching, overgrazing, competition for water, and removal of shrubs (Tatin et al. 2001). Tatin et al. (2001) identified the main threats to the Onager population at Touran, and outlined the actions being implemented to combat them. Both the Touran and Bahramgor populations are geographically, and therefore genetically, isolated from each other.

The Khur (Equus hemionus khur) in the Little Rann of Kutch is the subspecies subject to the most direct threat from increasing human activities. The ecology of the Wild Ass Sanctuary, for example, is threatened by a canal building project – the Sardar Sarovar Project of the Narmada Development Authority (Goyal et al. 1999). There is growing competition for resources as an increasing number of livestock are grazed within the reserve during monsoon season. At the same time, salt mining, the major economic industry for local people, has increased 140% since 1958 (Shah 1993). Such increased activity is particularly disruptive as the period for salt mining coincides with advanced stage of pregnancy in the Khur (Shah 1993). The increase in Khur population and its range expansion into the human dominated landscapes has resulted in increased incidences of crop depredation. Agriculture has intensified with better irrigation facilities thus changing the land use patterns.

The Kulan (Equus hemionus kulan) has suffered a catastrophic decline in the late 1990s due to poaching for the sale of meat (Lukarevskii pers. comm. 2001, Feh et al 2002). The only naturally occurring population of this subspecies is in the Badkhyz Reserve in Turkmenistan. During the summer months this population migrates to the Kuska River, which is 100 km outside of the protected area. The critical situation of the Badkhys Reserve Kulans clearly illustrates how swiftly isolated equid populations can be decimated and potentially driven to extinction during a period of a few years.

The Mongolian Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus) is suffering from illegal hunting for meat and skins, for commercial use in some areas (Duncan 1992; Stubbe et al. 2005, Stubbe et al 2007). Habitat is being degraded through human settlements such as herder camps which restrict access to oases, resource extraction such as mining, and possibly though grazing by increasing numbers of domestic livestock, particularly domestic horses and sheep. Habitat fragmentation and restriction of wide-scale movements due to fencing is a significant problem along the Ulaanbaatar-Beijing railway and the China-Mongolia border (Kaczensky et al. 2006, in prep.), and is also caused by roads, fences and railway lines associated with resource extraction activities. Nomadic herdsmen in Mongolia claim that an increasing number of Khulan are damaging the rangeland (Reading et al. 1997). In part, wildlife-livestock competition may result from an increased number of livestock following Mongolia’s shift to a market economy (e.g., livestock numbers increased from 24.6 million head to 28.6 million head between 1989 and 1995 (Honhold 1995, Müller and Janzen 1997, Reading et al. 2001). The negative impacts of grazing in Mongolia are well documented, especially where wild and domestic livestock overlap (Honhold 1995, Mallon et al. 1997, Reading et al. 2001, Shagdarsuren et al. 1987). Increased competition with livestock may result in further fragmentation of the wild ass population by limiting Khulan to strictly protected areas. In addition to competition for grazing land, poaching for meat and hides poses an increasing threat to Khulan in Mongolia (Duncan 1992, Reading et al. 2001). High levels of hunting in the 1980s severely decreased Khulan populations in inner Mongolia. Xiaoming and Schaller (1996) found very few Khulan further than 100 km from the Chinese/Mongolia border, suggesting that the inner Mongolian population is only a seasonal expansion of the Mongolian population. Wingard and Zahler (2006) reported that the illegal trade in Mongolian Khulan is removing approximately 3,000 individuals per year from the population. This level of exploitation is not sustainable.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is legally protected in Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Iran and India. In Mongolia it is protected as Rare under the 2001 revision (Mongolian Government Act No. 264) of the 2000 Law of the Mongolian Animal Kingdom (MNE 1996). Hunting has been prohibited since 1953, and it is currently listed as Rare under the 1995 Mongolian Hunting Law (MNE 1996). It is listed as Rare in both the 1987 and 1997 Mongolian Red Books (Shagdarsuren et al. 1987; MNE 1997). Equus hemionus hemionus and E. h. khur are included in CITES Appendix I, with the other subspecies being on CITES Appendix II. The species is included in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). The species occurs in protected areas in all range states where it survives. Approximately 29% of the species’ range in Mongolia occurs within protected areas (Clark et al 2006).

As outlined in the section on geographic distribution, there have been re-introduction projects for this species in a number of countries, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Ukraine, Israel and Saudi Arabia. In an effort to increase the total number of kulan populations, animals from the Badkhys and Barsa Kelmes were translocated to other areas in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbzekistan between 1955 and 1991 (Feh et al. 2002). Recognizing the threatened status of the dwindling Kulan population in the 1940s, the Soviet government gazetted the 900 km² Badkhyz Preserve in Turkmenistan to protect the remaining 200 Kulan. The population consequently grew to approximately 6,000 animals between 1945 and 1993. However, in the late 1990s when the Kulans left the reserve during the summer months, they were killed in large numbers. The population was significantly reduced to approximately 600 animals. This history illustrates how quickly a healthy population of equids can be reduced to a critically endangered level.

To date, the introduction of E. hemionus in Israel has been successful. The animals were introduced in 1982. Due to a high percentage of male births, the population grew very slowly at first (Saltz and Rubenstein 1996). Starting in 1991, the population began to grow more quickly with 17 births in 1994. As of the 1997 birth season, there were approximately 105 animals, of which 31 were adult breeding females. The animals are found over an area of 4,500 km². The animals use three artificial water points that are maintained by the Israeli Nature Reserves Authority in addition to several natural springs. Detailed ongoing studies of the population examine population increase, range expansion, habitat use, and changes in vegetation density and species richness. Information from these studies will be used in the development of management plans for the population (Feh et al 2002).

There are some important research needs for this species. A large omission in our knowledge of the Asiatic Wild Ass is its status and distribution within China. In Turkmenistan and Iran, the management of the Onager and Kulan would greatly benefit from increased knowledge of basic behaviour and ecology. Such information would provide a better understanding of threats to these populations. In particular, as the potential for escalating human-wildlife conflict increases during droughts, a short-term study to understand the seasonal movement patterns of the Badkhyz Kulan population in Turkmenistan, and the places where conflicts are taking place, might help to address how best to protect this population.

In Mongolia, the following conservation measures are in place:
• In 1999, the Mongolian Government created two protected areas specifically for the conservation of this species, Great Gobi Section B Strictly Protected Area (Dzungarian Gobi Desert) and Zagiin Us Nature Reserve (Northern Gobi) (Feh et al. 2002).
• Research projects have been conducted to investigate the status, distribution, ecology and social structure of Asiatic Wild Ass in Mongolia (e.g., Feh et al., 2001; Reading et al. 2001).
• Several conservation organizations were brought together at the ‘First Asiatic Wild Ass Conference’ held in Mongolia in 2005 (AWAC 2005), where a range of conservation management issues were addressed.
• An in-depth study of the ecological impact of the Ulaanbaatar-Beijing railway has been conducted, including trials using Mongolian Gazelles to investigate the possibility of their crossing bridges or tunnels. This research may also benefit Asiatic Wild Ass migration.
• Activities in Great Gobi Section B Strictly Protected Area include: monthly wildlife transects, monitoring of Asiatic Wild Ass and other species such as wolves (Canis lupus) and Przewalski’s Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) to understand interactions, vegetation mapping, and workshops to integrate park management with sustainable livelihoods (Kaczensky et al. 2006).


The following five actions are now those deemed most important for this species (Feh et al 2002):

1. The Kulan population in Badkhys Preserve has declined by approximately 90% in a three year period. Improved protection from poaching is needed both within the reserve and along the summer migration route to the Kushka River. The ecological requirements of this population need to be determined and an ecosystem analysis made of their habitat in order to prepare a long-term sustainable management plan.

2. Over 30% of the Khur population is ranging outside the Protected Area. The Sardar Sarovar Canal has changed the land-use patterns and the agro-economy i.e. from rain dependent crops to irrigated cash crops. Around the Rann, mitigation measures for the increasing number of wildlife and human conflicts are urgently needed. Prosopis juliflora, is an exotic shrub spreading fast across the habitat, the management needs to undertake thinning operation of this shrub for habitat improvement. Salt mining is the major economy for eight months in the year for the locals living around the Rann. This area produces 21% of India’s salt. The transportation of the salt is through well-defined routes. Presently truckers’ criss-cross through the area (habitat) thereby causing excessive damage to fragile arid grasslands (Shah 1993). The Sardar Sarovar canal has fragmented the Khur population. There is a need to evaluate possible linkages between the fragmented Khur population and its source Rann population. There is a need to understand the demography and immigration patterns of Khur in the newly occupied sites (i.e., Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Velavadar Blackbuck National Park, areas in Bhal, Great Rann and neigbouring state of Rajasthan) (Shah 1993, 1998, 1999). The existing sanctuary infrastructure and staffing needs to be strengthened which is presently inadequate for managing a Sanctuary of 5,000 km² (Shah 1993). There is a need for disease monitoring of domestic equids and other livestock. The sanctuary was notified in 1973, and the land settlement process has been initiated. The sanctuary has been identified as a potential Natural World Heritage Site; its evaluation is pending (Gujarat Forest Department 2007). There is a need for an assessment of the status of Khur along the Indo-Pakistan border adjoining the Rann. The Wild Ass Sanctuary was identified as one of the six landscape sites in India for biodiversity conservation through improved rural livelihoods, a programme which is aided by the World Bank (Government of India 2007).

3. Taxonomic questions need to be clarified and subspecies ranges should be demarcated. These data are needed for the Wild Ass subspecies in Mongolia and for the Kulan/Onager populations in Turkmenistan and Iran. Information from the latter investigation could also affect the taxonomic listing of the introduced Israeli population.

4. Investigation and development of plans are needed to address conflict between local human groups and Wild Ass populations. Today, grazing outside reserves and encroachment into agricultural areas threaten to decrease “good-will” towards Asiatic Wild Ass populations in Turkmenistan and Mongolia. Whether now or in the future, all Wild Ass populations will probably be in conflict with local pastoralists and agricultural groups. Conflict with human populations will lead to loss of habitat quality and increased susceptibility to high mortality during drought and disease outbreaks. Efforts need to be made to address current problems and to limit their occurrence in the future. In addition, the following conservation measures have been identified specifically for Mongolia (AWAC 2005):

• Enhance enforcement of existing protective legislature, including strict control at border posts between Mongolia and China for illegal export of carcasses.
• Control meat markets, to prevent illegal trade in carcasses within Mongolia.
• Map critical habitat and movement corridors.
• Consider migration routes when planning transportation routes and fences, including implementation of mitigation measures along fenced transportation routes (e.g., railway Ulaanbaatar-Beijing) (P. Kaczensky pers. comm.).
• Raise public awareness and establish education programmes to highlight the international importance and socioeconomic benefits of Mongolian populations (e.g., teach herders that they benefit from Asiatic Wild Ass digging waterholes in dry riverbeds) (C. Feh pers. comm.).
• Livelihood aid for local people, e.g., alternative income strategies. Conflict between local pastoralists and agricultural groups needs to be addressed.
• Conduct further research on population numbers, habitat use and migration, including further research to clarify the subspecific taxonomy of Mongolian populations of Asiatic Wild Ass (Feh et al. 2002), and rigorous annual population monitoring, preferentially using aerial surveys.
• Stronger co-operation between Mongolia and China to facilitate conservation efforts, e.g. formation of trans-border protected areas.
Citation: Moehlman, P.D., Shah, N. & Feh, C. 2008. Equus hemionus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 April 2014.
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