Equus hemionus ssp. kulan 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Perissodactyla Equidae

Scientific Name: Equus hemionus ssp. kulan (Groves & Mazák, 1967)
Parent Species:
Common Name(s):
English Kulan, Turkmenian Kulan
Taxonomic Notes: Grubb in Wilson and Reeder (1993) treats this as E. onager kulan.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C1+2b ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-05-01
Assessor(s): Kaczensky, P., Lkhagvasuren, B., Pereladova, O., Hemami, M. & Bouskila, A.
Reviewer(s): King, S.R.B. & Moehlman, P.D.
Contributor(s): Lukarevskiy, V., Sokolov, S.V., Khudaykuliyev , N. & Habibrakhmanov , R. and Marmazinskaja , N.
Equus hemionus kulan is listed as EN C1+C2b because: 1) the total number of mature individuals is <2,500 (even including all populations with the most optimistic estimates); 2) C1 as the Kulan population has declined >20% over the last 2 generations when combining the trends from Badkhyz and Altyn Emel (0.75*-95% + 0.25*25%)/2 = -32.5% total decline); 3) C2b as extreme fluctuations in number of mature individuals has been observed at Badkhyz and is likely elsewhere. The subspecies is close to also qualifying under C2a(ii) as 75% of mature individuals are found in the Altyn Emyl subpopulation, and this could increase to >95%, assuming a more pessimistic view on the actual population numbers given in 2010-2014 and/or assuming a decreasing trend. Additionally the subspecies qualifies as VU under A2+A3 as there has been a >30% decline in the past and it is suspected that this will be met over three generations in the future.

By the 1940s this subspecies became confined to only one location, the Badkhyz region in southern Turkmenistan. Reintroductions between the 1950s and 1990s expanded the range (extent of occurrence and area of occupancy) by founding six reintroduced populations in Turkmenistan and four in Kazakhstan. However, only seven of the 10 reintroduced populations seem to have survived until present and all but one remain small. Furthermore, population estimates from Turkmenistan are likely overly optimistic. All of the smaller populations seem to suffer from high poaching pressure, competition with livestock, and habitat loss.

The original population of Kulan in Badkhyz Strictly Protected Area suffered a decline of >95% between the 1990s and 2014 (from an estimated 6,000 to potentially as low as 200 in 2013). The large reintroduced population in Altyn Emyl had an increasing trend and is currently estimated at around 2,500-3,000 individuals, but has little or no potential for future growth.

Given the small size and the uncertainty in population estimates, trends, and areas of occupancy of the small reintroduced subpopulations, the assessment is based on the dynamics of the two largest and best surveyed subpopulations: Badkhyz, Turkmenistan and Altyn Emel, Kazakhstan. These subpopulations have driven the overall population trend since the 1990s as they constituted >95% of the overall Kulan population.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This subspecies has been reintroduced in Kazakhstan where it had become extinct in the 1930s. Currently there are three subpopulations:

1.    Altyn Emel National Park in southeast Kazakhstan
2.    Around Barsa-Kelmes
3.    In Andassay Sanctuary

In Turkmenistan Wild Asses only survived in Badkhyz Strictly Protected Area, bordering Iran and Afghanistan. From Badkhyz Wild Asses were reintroduced to multiple other localities within Turkmenistan. Currently there are four subpopulations within Turkmenistan and one that is spreading also into Uzbekistan:

1.    Badkhyz Nature Reserve
2.    Meana Chaacha Reserve
3.    Western Kopetdag
4.    Kuruhaudan
5.    Kaplankyr Reserve at Sarakamysh lake/Ustyurt plateau.
Countries occurrence:
Kazakhstan; Uzbekistan
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:30000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:1143222
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:8Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Total mature population is estimated at 1,600-2,000 mature individuals.


1.    Altyn Emel National Park: 2,500-3,000, increasing (date of census: 2014); 32-38 reintroduced between 1982-1984 (Plakhov et al. 2012, R. Habibrakhmanov pers. comm. 2014). This population has little potential for further growth as the area around the protected area is largely unsuitable due to agriculture and other forms of land use. There is concern that this population is too large for the protected area (Rustamov pers. comm. 2014).
2.    Andassay Sanctuary: 35, trend is data deficient (date of census: 2012); 120 reintroduced between 1986-1990, and 95 reintroduced between 2006-2011 (Levanov et al. 2013).
3.    Around Barsa-Kelmes Island: 347, stable (date of census: 2009 or 2010); 19 reintroduced between 1953-1964 (Meldebekov et al. 2010).


1.    Badkhyz: 420, declining (date of census: 2013, but may be even lower); autochthonous (N. Khudaykuliyev pers. comm. 2014).
2.    Meana Chaacha (Eastern Kopetdag): ~100, trend is data deficient, (date of census: 2013); 48 reintroduced between 1979-1989 (V. Kuznetsov unpubl. data 2012 and 2013).
3.    Kuruhhauda /Kalinin: 10-15, trend is data deficient (date of census: 2013); 18 reintroduced in 1981 (V. Kuznetsov unpubl. data 2012 and 2013).
4.    Western Kopetdag Turkmenistan: 13, trend is data deficient (date of census: 2013); 47 reintroduced between 1988-1989 (V. Kuznetsov unpubl. data 2012 and 2013).

Turkmenistan / Uzbekistan

1.    Kaplankyr Reserve at Sarakamysh lake/Ustyurt plateau: 350-400, increasing (date of census: 2012, 2013); ~100 reintroduced between 1983-1987 (Kuznetsov 2014, N. Marmazinskaja unpubl. data 2012/2013).
It is likely that numbers of the Turkmen populations, including Badkhyz, are lower than the figures provided in 2014 as signs of poaching are high and currently suggest a high illegal off-take. The current increasing trend of the two subpopulations may not continue under these threats, similar to what has been observed at Badkhyz.

The autochthonous subpopulation in the Badkhyz Strictly Protected Area is declining. Large parts of the Wild Ass population in Badkhyz leave the Strictly Protected Area in summer to access water sources like the Kuska or Islim rivers close to the Afghan border. Outside the protected area, competition with livestock and crop raiding leads to conflicts with the local population. Poaching remains a problem and harassment by shepherds and their dogs and overgrazing by livestock limits Kulan access to pastures and water outside the reserve.

The situation of Kulan in Turkmenistan is largely data deficient. The accuracy of population estimates and the distribution range are unclear.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:2000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:YesPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
No. of subpopulations:8Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Kulan occurs in semi-desert habitat.
Generation Length (years):7.5
Movement patterns:Nomadic
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is protected in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, however, illegal off-take has been identified as a key threat in parts of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and may well drive some of the small subpopulations into extinction if not stopped.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats to the taxon include loss of habitat due to conversion for agriculture, competition from domestic livestock, and illegal hunting for meat. In addition, along the fringes of protected areas Wild Ass come into contact with agriculture and crop raiding results in conflicts and retaliation killings. Periods of drought or extreme winters with icing events may also be a threat to the survival of some of the small subpopulations. The border fence with Iran and Afghanistan does not allow for cross-border movements to the south any more.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is included on CITES Appendix II. Most of the population occurs around protected areas. However, Wild Ass undertake seasonal migrations or long distance movements outside of the protected areas, which are poorly documented and understood.

Citation: Kaczensky, P., Lkhagvasuren, B., Pereladova, O., Hemami, M. & Bouskila, A. 2016. Equus hemionus ssp. kulan. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T7964A3144714. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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