Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Perissodactyla Equidae

Scientific Name: Equus hemionus
Species Authority: Pallas, 1775
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Asiatic Wild Ass, Asian Wild Ass
French Hémione, Ane sauvage d'Asie, Hémippe
Spanish Asno Salvaje Asiático, Hemiono
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
Taxonomic Notes: There are currently five generally recognized subspecies:
  1. Equus hemionus hemionus - the Mongolian khulan (in northern Mongolia) (E. h. luteus - the Gobi khulan or dziggetai in southern Mongolia and northern China, is probably a synonym of E. h. hemionus (Oakenfull et al. 2000, Grubb 2005, Kaczensky et al. 2011a)
  2. E. h. khur – the khur (India)
  3. E. h. kulan – the Turkmen kulan (in Turkmenistan, re-introduced in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and mixed E. h. kulan x E. h. onager in Israel)
  4. E. h. onager - the onager (Iran and re-introduced and mixed E. h. kulan x E. h. onager in Israel)
  5. E. h. hemippus – the Syrian wild ass (Extinct, formerly from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea south into the Arabian Peninsula)
However, the taxonomic arrangement of equids is quite complicated and modern (particularly genetic) analyses may result in future changes or clarifications (Oakenfull and Ryder 2002).

Recent genetic analysis of archaeological, historical and modern samples indeed suggest that there is only one species of Asiatic Wild Ass (Bennett et al. 2012, Bennett et al. in prep., assigning the modern Equus hemionus and Equus kiang as well as Equus hydruntinus which went extinct during the Holocene (Crees and Turvey 2014) to the same species), which is subdivided into regional subpopulations rather than subspecies. Comparative analysis of modern samples of Equus hemionus from Iran (E. h. onager) and China (E. h. hemionus) and Equus kiang also did not support monophyly (Rosenbom et al. 2015). However, this Red List assessment does not include Equus kiang and did not attempt to include semi-reserves where Equus hemionus was reintroduced in central or western Europe – the former distribution range of Equus hydruntinus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-05-01
Assessor(s): Kaczensky, P., Lkhagvasuren, B., Pereladova, O., Hemami, M. & Bouskila, A.
Reviewer(s): Moehlman, P.D., King, S.R.B., Mallon, D. & Reading, R.
Contributor(s): Cao, Q., Bi, J., Yang, W., Lukarevskiy , V., Sokolov, S.V., Khudaykuliyev , N., Habibrakhmanov , R., Marmazinskaja , N., Kuznetsov , V., Shah, N., Bhatnagar, Y.V., Esmaeili, S., Shahriari, B., Mohammadi, H., Bar-Davis, S., Freifeld, B., Renan, S. & Feh, C.
This species is assessed as Near Threatened (NT) because a population decline of at least 20% is projected over the next three generations, based on old prevailing and newly emerging risks, thus approaching Vulnerable (VU) under A3bcd.

Although the global population is large and currently appears stable, the rapid infrastructure development and the associated influx of people in large parts of the species range could quickly result in the re-emergence of old threats (e.g. increased competition with livestock for water and pasture, high poaching levels). Furthermore, linear infrastructure (e.g. roads, railways, canals) - if not carefully designed and mitigated - are likely to result in high mortalities if Wild Asses are impeded in their long-distance movements and become cut-off from important resources or refuge areas. Mongolia, which currently houses over 75% of the global population, is at a crossroad and the outcome will depend on Mongolia’s ability to become “a global model for demonstrating that major economic development projects can proceed without degrading ungulate migrations” (Batsaikhan et al. 2014).

Though global dynamics are primarily driven by the large Mongolian population, locally there are both increasing and decreasing trends with some populations in Turkmenistan, Iran, Kazakhstan and China being threatened with immediate extinction. Furthermore, several population estimates are rather old and methods are rarely standardized. Consequentially, the different subspecies have also been assessed individually.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Endangered (EN)
2002 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (V)
1990 Vulnerable (V)
1988 Vulnerable (V)
1986 Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: In historic times the Asiatic Wild Ass ranged throughout the steppes and desert steppes of the Russian Federation, Mongolia, northern China, northwest India, Central Asia, the Middle East, including Iran, the Arabian Peninsula and Asia Minor (Bannikov 1981, Heptner et al. 1988, Denzau and Denzau 1999). Today the species' main stronghold is southern Mongolia and adjacent China. All other remaining populations are small and largely isolated from each other. One subspecies, the Syrian Wild Ass (E. h. hemippus), became extinct in 1927.

Equus hemionus may have lost as much as 70% of its range since the 19th century and is now regionally extinct in most of its former range countries primarily due to competition with livestock for pastures and water and severe over-hunting (Bannikov 1981, Feh et al. 2002). The largest remaining population is found in southern Mongolia (Reading et al. 2001, Ransom et al. 2012, Norton-Griffiths et al. 2013,Norton-Griffiths et al. 2015) and parts of adjacent China (Q. Cao pers. comm. 2014 based on Bi 2007, Chu 2008). The species also survives as isolated populations in the Little Rann of Kutch in India (Shah and Qureshi 2007), the Badkhyz Reserve in Turkmenistan (Lukarevski and Gorelov 2007) and in the Touran protected area complex and Qatrouiyeh National Park and the adjacent Bahram-e-Goor protected area in Iran (Tatin et al. 2003, Hemami and Momeni 2013).

The species has been re-established via reintroductions in Kazakhstan and Israel. Additional reintroductions have somewhat re-expanded its range in Turkmenistan (also spreading into Uzbekistan) and established two populations in large enclosures in Uzbekistan and Ukraine. The re-established population in Israel is not of the subspecies that originally occurred there, but rather of mixed E. h. kulan and E. h. onager origin (Gueta et al. 2014).

For further information about this species, see 7951_Equus_hemionus.pdf.
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Countries occurrence:
China; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Mongolia; Turkmenistan
Regionally extinct:
Afghanistan; Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; Georgia; Iraq; Jordan; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Turkey; Ukraine
Israel; Kazakhstan; Uzbekistan
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2: 330000
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 9200000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 17
Continuing decline in number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 3000
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Population estimates of Asiatic Wild Asses are based on a wide variety of different field methods and estimation techniques ranging from attempted total counts based on ground transects or counts at strategically important habitat features (e.g. water points, winter range), population estimates based on strip transects or line transects either from the ground or air, and sign surveys. Details on survey design or details on the statistical procedures that lead to the final population estimates were rarely available. Funds and capacity for monitoring are often very limited and several population estimates are rather old. Consequently, estimates provided should be treated as best available information on the magnitude of the Wild Ass populations and their trends in the respective countries.

Free ranging Asiatic Wild Ass populations currently occur in eight countries in 17 more or less isolated populations with an estimated global population of 55,000 animals.

The largest remaining Wild Ass population, found in southern Mongolia and parts of adjacent China, had been estimated at 18,411 (± 898) for Mongolia in 2003 based on ground transects (Lhagvasuren 2007). However, new counts suggest that this survey greatly underestimated the population due to methodological constrains of covering such a huge area on the ground. A large-scale aerial survey estimated 32,843 (± 10,571) Wild Asses over 150,000 km2 in the southeast Gobi in 2013 (Norton-Griffiths et al. 2015) plus likely an additional 1,723 Wild Asses in the no-flight buffer zone along the Mongolian-Chinese border based on a parallel ground survey (Norton-Griffiths et al. 2013). Three large-scale spring time ground surveys resulted in comparable population estimates of 35,899 (18 %CV) in 2013, 39,998 (27%CV) in 2014, and 36,298 (27%CV) in 2015 (Buuveibaatar et al. in prep.) A simultaneous point count in 2010 estimated another 5,671 (3611–8907) Wild Asses over 11,027 km2 in the Dzungarian Gobi (Ransom et al. 2012). These data suggest a population of over 40,000 individuals in Mongolia, with likely an additional 1,500 in the Transaltai Gobi as there have been no reported changes there since the 1997 aerial survey (Reading et al. 2001), plus further animals in the eastern Gobi, giving an estimate of over 42,000 animals. Based on these updated population estimates, Mongolia houses 75% of the global population of Asiatic Wild Ass. Genetic analysis of samples collected from 2002–2005 suggested gene flow over the entire range in Mongolia (Kaczensky et al. 2011), but this may have been compromised by recent infrastructure development.

An additional ~5,000 Wild Asses are believed to occur in adjacent China, primarily in Xinjiang province (Q. Cao pers. comm. 2014 based on Bi 2007, Chu 2008). With the upgrading of the fence along the international border in the 1980s and 1990s, population exchange between Mongolia and China has likely ceased or at least become minimal (Kaczensky et al. 2011a, Kaczensky unpubl. data). Consequently, the Chinese populations should be regarded as separate from Mongolia.

The third largest population is found in the Little Rann of Kutch in India (Shah and Qureshi 2007). In 2009 the official estimate for this population was ~4,000 animals (N. Shah pers. comm. 2014).

The fourth largest population is found in Altyn Emel National Park in southeast Kazakhstan. This population was re-established via reintroductions and is currently estimated at ~2,500-3,000 animals (Plakhov et al. 2012, S.V. Sokolov pers. comm. 2011, R. Habibrakhmanov pers. comm. 2014). Two additional, isolated reintroduced populations are found in Kazakhstan: 1) on Barsa-Kelmes Island with an estimated ~347 animals (Meldebekov et al. 2010) and 2) in Andassay Sanctuary with an estimated ~35 animals (Levanov et al. 2013). The total population in Kazakhstan is approximately 3,100 animals.

The fifth largest population is found in Qatrouiyeh National Park and the adjacent Bahram-e-Goor protected area in south-central Iran, estimated at 632 (429-939) individuals of which 15% were foals in summer 2014 (M. Hemami pers. comm. 2014). While the Bahram-e-Gour population has shown a positive trend in recent years, the second population in the Touran protected area complex in northern Iran seems to have severely decreased to a mere ~145 animals (summer census 2014 - M. Hemami pers. comm. 2014, Hamidi et al. 2012). Any potential exchange with the population in adjacent Turkmenistan is inhibited by the fence along the international border. A recent reintroduction resulted in 12 free-ranging animals in Kalmand protected area. The total population in Iran is around 790 animals.

In Turkmenistan Wild Asses only survived in Badkhyz Strictly Protected Area, bordering Iran and Afghanistan. The 2013 estimate for Badkhyz was ~420 individuals (N. Khudaykuliyev pers. comm. 2014), a 50% reduction in the population since the 2008 assessment. Rapid assessments from 2012, 2014 and 2015 suggest that the population may be even lower than 420 individuals (Kuznetsov pers. comm. 2015, Kaczensky and Linnell 2015). From Badkhyz Wild Asses were reintroduced to multiple other localities within Turkmenistan (Pavlov 1996, Lukarevskiy and Gorelov. 2007). The reintroduction to the Sarykamysh reserve was the most successful and the population is estimated at ~300-350 animals, also spreading into adjacent Uzbekistan where another ~50 animals are believed to live (Kuznetsov 2014, N. Marmazinskaja unpubl. data 2012/2013). The other reintroduction sites are all in the south, with an estimated ~100 animals in Meana Chaacha Reserve, ~13 in Western Kopetdag, and ~10-15 in Kuruhaudan (V. Kuznetsov unpubl. data 2012 and 2013). The total population in Turkmenistan and adjacent Uzbekistan is about 920 animals.

The reintroduced population in the Negev in Israel is currently estimated at 250 animals (Gueta et al. 2014).

Two projects reintroduced Wild Ass populations into large enclosures – so called semi-reserves. The Dzheiran Ecocentre in Uzbekistan is 51 km2 and houses a population of 98 animals (N. Soldatova unpubl. data 2013) and the Birjutschii peninsula in Ukraine is 100 km2 and houses 91 animals (Pavlov 1996, O. Yaremchenko pers. comm. 2014). However, these populations were not included in the IUCN Red List assessment. The planned reintroduction in Taif, Saudi Arabia never happened and no animals remain at the enclosure (Denzau and Denzau 1999, Int. Studbook Of Asiatic Wild Asses - Onager Studbook).

The population trend since the last Red List assessment in 2008 seems more or less stable in Mongolia, is data deficient in China, seems stable or slightly increasing in India, shows a mixed trend in Iran (with Touran dramatically decreasing, but Bahram-e-Goor increasing), is increasing or stable in Kazakhstan, data deficient in Turkmenistan (decrease in Badkhyz, but increase in Sarykamysh Reserve), increasing in Uzbekistan from Sarykamysh Reserve, and increasing in Israel.

See Table 1 and Figure 1 in the Supplementary Material.
For further information about this species, see 7951_Equus_hemionus.pdf.
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Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 28000
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: Yes
No. of subpopulations: 17 Continuing decline in subpopulations: No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Asiatic Wild Asses inhabit mountain steppe, steppe, semi-desert and desert plains, but nowadays have become mainly confined to the low productivity semi-desert and desert plains (Bannikov 1981, Kaczensky et al. 2011a). Wild Asses can be found in hill country and are able to cross over mountain ranges, but generally seem to avoid steeper terrain, particularly slopes >20° (Kaczensky et al. 2011a).

Wild Asses have a feeding strategy similar to that observed in other equids in xeric environments. When grass is plentiful, Asiatic Wild Asses are predominately grazers. During the dry season and in drier habitats, Asiatic Wild Asses will supplement their diet with shrubs and switch to become mixed-feeders during certain seasons (Bannikov 1981, Xu et al. 2012, Burnik-Sturm in prep.). Wild Asses, like all equids, need regular access to water and in captivity drink 1,020 litres daily, although they seem to be able to go without water for two to four days depending on ambient temperature and moisture content of the feed (Bannikov 1981, Kaczensky et al. 2010). Water availability is a key resource and in summer months the species primarily occurs within 10-15 km of standing water. In Mongolia where the ground water level is high, Asiatic Wild Ass have been observed digging holes as deep as 60 cm in dry riverbeds to access water (Feh et al. 2002, Stubbe et al. 2005).

Wild Asses are highly mobile, in the Mongolian Gobi collared animals covered average daily straight line distances of 11.9 km (Kaczensky et al. 2006) or cumulative distances of 21.8 km (Kaczensky unpubl. data) within 24 hours. Wild Ass movements do not seem to follow easily predictable patterns (classical migration), but are rather nomadic. This is likely the result of the unpredictability in the availability of pasture and water in space and time (Kaczensky et al. 2008, Kaczensky et al. 2011a, von Wehrden et al. 2012). In the past, when Wild Asses still occurred on mountain steppe and steppe habitats, they made seasonal migrations between summer ranges on the productive steppe habitats in the north to winter ranges in the drier, but less snowy areas in the south (Bannikov 1981).

Asiatic Wild Asses in Mongolia have huge annual ranges, the size of which increase from east to west, likely as a result of increasing unpredictability of pasture and water availability. In the Dzungarian Gobi annual ranges averaged 5,860 km2, in the Transaltai Gobi they ranged between 14,695-16,907 km2, but in the southeast Gobi ranged from 18,186-69,988 km2 (Kaczensky et al. 2011a, Batsaikhan et al. 2014).

Age at first reproduction seems to be three years for mares and five years for stallions. Mares can produce a foal annually under favourable conditions up to at least 15 years of age. Sex-ratio at birth is close to 50/50 (Bannikov 1981, Saltz and Rubenstein 1995, Volf 2010). Area specific data of Asiatic Wild Ass population dynamics parameters are largely lacking or anecdotal. For the re-introduced and intensively studied population on Barsa Kelmes Island average fertility of adult mares was estimated at 66.6%, but varied depending on pasture condition and winter severity (Bannikov 1981). Foal survival in the wild likely is in the magnitude of 50% and yearling survival is lower than adult survival (Feh et al. 2001, Nowzari et al. 2012, Kaczensky pers. obs.). Age determination of 350 skulls of Asiatic Wild Ass carcasses from the Mongolian Gobi documented a mean age of 9.1 years (for animals ≥3 years) and a maximum age of 29 years (Lkhagvasuren et al. 2013, Lkhagvasuren et al. in prep.). Average annual foal rates seem to be somewhere in the range of 1,020% (Bannikov 1981, Feh et al. 2001, Stubbe et al. 2012). The species is polygynous and thus only a portion of the adult males contributes to reproduction, though what percentage is unknown, particularly as there is still limited understanding of the social organization of the species (Solomatin 1973, Bannikov 1981, Rubenstein 1986, Feh et al. 1994, Klingel 1998 Shah 1993, Feh et al. 2002 Neumann-Denzau and Denzau 2007, Rubenstein et al. 2007, Shah and Qureshi, 2007, Sundaresan et al. 2007, Kaczensky et al. 2008).

Data on population composition and age specific mortality rates are unavailable and most surveys did not state if and how foals were included in the estimates. Without more robust population dynamics data we assumed that the number of mature individuals roughly equals 50% of the total population making for a global population of mature animals of 27,900 animals.

We also compared our estimate with the known population composition of one re-introduced Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalski) population that shares part of the range of Asiatic Wild Asses in the Mongolian Gobi and nine Cape mountain zebra populations in South Africa. In the Przewalski’s horse population the proportion of mature individuals (≥3 years for mares and ≥5 years for stallions) averaged 61% (Kaczensky et al. unpubl. data 2009, 2014) and for the Cape Mountain zebra populations ranged between 55-65% (S. King pers. comm. 2014, based on H. Hrabar unpubl. data).
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 7.5
Movement patterns: Nomadic
Congregatory: Congregatory (and dispersive)

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Illegal trade seems to happen primarily on a national level and stem from poaching for meat, hides and fat, which like liver is believed to have apparent medicinal properties.

Illegal off-take in Mongolia peaked in the early 2000s and also included large scale market hunting (Wingard and Zahler 2006, Stubbe et al. 2007), but currently seems to be much reduced. However, illegal off-take has been identified as a key threat in parts of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and China and may well drive some of the small populations into extinction if not stopped.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats to Asiatic Wild Asses stem from illegal hunting for meat, hides and fat, which like liver is believed to have apparent medicinal properties (Bannikov 1981, Wingard and Zahler 2006, Stubbe et al. 2007), competition with humans and livestock over water and pasture use (Kaczensky et al. 2006), and crop depredation (primarily in India, Iran and Turkmenistan; S. Esmaeili pers. comm. 2013, N. Shah pers. comm. 2014, N. Khudaykuliyev pers. comm. 2014, Feh et al. 2002). Other threats are habitat loss as a result of human settlement and cultivation, overgrazing and degradation, and limited access to open water sources (the mere presence of people and their livestock at water points can limit or block access for wild ass; Denzau and Denzau 1999, Kaczensky et al. 2006, Kaczensky et al. 2010).

Of increasing concern is the continued habitat fragmentation by linear infrastructure development projects (mostly roads and railways) associated with the booming extractive industry in Mongolia and China. Asiatic Wild Asses are unable to cross fences (e.g. along the border between Mongolia and China or Iran and Turkmenistan, or fenced transportation corridors like the Ulaanbaatar-Beijing railway), have long flight distances from vehicles in areas with a high poaching pressure, and suffer from vehicle collisions (e.g., from 2009-2013, 26 Wild Asses were killed by traffic in Israel; Waner 2014). If not mitigated, fenced and/or high volume traffic corridors can be expected to create serious movement barriers (Batsaikhan et al. 2014).

Wild Asses have become largely confined to semi-desert and desert areas with a high variability in water and pasture availability. To cope with this unpredictable environment and track the scarce resources available, Wild Asses need to have access to large tracts of land. This is particularly true in times of weather extremes, when Wild Asses need to outrun summer droughts or extreme winters (Kaczensky et al. 2011b). Although protected areas may provide important refuges, long-term conservation of Wild Asses will have to happen on the landscape scale. New planning tools are needed, like the “planning for a moving target” approach suggested for Saiga (Saiga tatarica) in Kazakhstan (Singh et al. 2011, Bull et al. 2013).

Small, isolated populations are demographically and genetically vulnerable and prone to extinction, particularly in habitats with frequent environmental extremes (Kaczensky et al. 2011b, Saltz et al. 2006). Small and localised populations also have limited resilience to disease outbreaks or climate change. 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).

Specific threats to particular populations are outlined below:

The main threats to Khulan in Mongolia remain competition for water and pasture with livestock. The temporally high illegal offtake in Mongolia seems to have largely ceased, but could be resumed if the economic situation becomes unstable. Newly emerging threats are rapid infrastructure development particularly in connection with resource extraction industries (mining) that could result in barriers to migrations/nomadic movements (Batsaikhan et al. 2014) and habitat loss and degradation. The impacts of mining operation tapping into “ancient” aquifers on the active ground water table are not fully understood. The situation is complicated by a lack of capacity and funding to implement landscape scale planning and conservation. Furthermore, an estimated 60,0000 illegal “ninja” miners are degrading the habitat, polluting water sources and causing huge disturbance, though initiatives are under way transforming ninja mining into a formal sub-sector and developing mercury free processing techniques.

Threats in northern China stem from intensified resource extraction which already resulted in the de-gazetting of parts of Kalamaili Nature Reserve, fencing and competition with local herders and their livestock (Xia et al. 2014). The situation in Gansu province is data deficient and potentially Wild Asses no longer occur in that region. The situation in Inner Mongolia is also unclear, the fence along the international border with Mongolia currently inhibits population exchange between the two countries.

Threats to Khur in the Little Rann of Kutch in India stem from increasing human activities. Land use patterns have changed since the Mega Narmada Dam Project which resulted in the Sardar Sarovar canals all around the protected area (Goyal et al. 1999). Uninformed release of Sardar Sarovar canal excess waters into the Rann is having an impact on the micro-habitat, the short grasslands and is restricting the movement of Khur and other species across the saline desert. Increased agricultural practices have converted fallow lands into irrigation fields, resulting in shrinking habitat for the existing Khur population. Religious activities, cattle breeding and influx of people have accelerated on the Islands or Bets of the Rann. Prosopis juliflora invasion is an additional threat to the habitat. An estimated 30-35% of the Khur population lives outside the protected area and human-Khur conflicts are increasing, particularly crop raiding. In recent years Khur have also been increasingly hit on the major express highway. The International Boundary with Pakistan has been fenced thus restricting any possibility of Khur movement beyond borders. Although the population has somewhat increased over the past years, foaling rates in Khur have been on the decline in recent years (N. Shah pers. comm. 2014).

In Kazakhstan Kulan in Altyn Emel National Park are thriving, but are believed to have reached carrying capacity. Transfers to Andassay Sanctuary have been resumed, but the status and whereabouts of the reintroduced animals is largely unknown due to a lack of post-release management. Poaching still seems to be a threat outside of Altyn Emel National Park.

In Iran upgrading the core zone of Bahram-e-Goor protected area to Qatrouiyeh National Park and providing water supplies and occasional hay resulted in an increase of the Onager population. In contrast, the large adjacent Bahram-e-Goor protected area seems to act as a sink for the population due to occupation of water sources and productive ranges by livestock coupled with insufficient capacity for ranger presence and patrolling. As a result, the Onager population is concentrated in Qatrouyeh national park, which is starting to show signs of high herbivory pressure from Onagers. In Touran protected area the distribution range and abundance of Onagers have been decreasing. Occupation of suitable Onager habitats by livestock, poaching (usually by chasing the animal by motorbike) and insufficient protection are the most important threats to the species in this reserve.

The situation of Kulan in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is largely data deficient. The accuracy of population estimates and the distribution range are unclear. The border fence with Iran and Afghanistan does not allow for cross-border movements to the south any more. The autochthonous population 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 (N. Khudaykuliyev pers. comm. 2014).

The reintroduced wild ass population in Israel lives in an extremely arid environment prone to droughts and in summer there are only three permanent water sources (all artificial) within the current distribution area. Presently the major known mortality cause is Wild Ass vehicle collisions. Although population size has doubled since 1999, an increase in the probability of extreme events under the predicted climate change scenario may still make this population vulnerable to extinction as modelled by Saltz et al. (2006). Another simulation model, based on changes in allele frequencies, suggests that a strong polygynous mating system is leading to increased genetic drift (Renan et al. 2015).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Asiatic Wild Ass is legally protected in all range countries. CITES has listed the subspecies E.h. hemionus (Mongolian Khulan) and E.h. khur (Indian Khur) on Appendix I and all other subspecies on Appendix II since 1975. The full species is listed on Annex A of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations since 2013. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) listed the species on Appendix II in 2002 (UNEP/CMS 2002b). The Asiatic Wild Ass is one of the key species in the Central Asian Mammals Initiative (CAMI) of CMS (Karlstetter and Mallon 2014).

In all range countries protected areas have been established with the goal to protect Asiatic Wild Asses. However, almost all protected areas seem too small to sustain a population year-round or accommodate population recovery. At the fringes of protected areas conflicts with the local population tend to be increasing and/or Asiatic Wild Asses are subject to high levels of illegal killing. Consequently, landscape scale planning and integrative approaches that also take local people’s needs into account are needed for future conservation planning. Unfortunately China just de-gazetted substantial parts of the Kalamaili Nature reserve, a major stronghold of wild asses in Xinjiang, to allow coal mining (Xia et al. 2014).

On the other hand, Badkhyz Strictly Protected Area in Turkmenistan (M. Day pers. comm. 2014) and the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area in Mongolia (T. Jaeger pers. comm. 2014) have been listed as possible candidate sites for nomination as UNESCO world heritage sites. For Badkhyz an expansion of the State Nature Reserve, additional adjacent nature reserves and an ecological corridor safeguarding the seasonal migrations of Asiatic Wild Asses are being currently implemented. A ‘transboundary ecological corridor’ connecting Kalamaili Nature Reserve in Xinjiang province in China, and Great Gobi A and B Strictly Protected Area in Mongolia via the limited entry border area of northern Xinjiang and southern Mongolia has been suggested to re-establish transboundary Asiatic Wild Ass movements (Kaczensky et al. 2011a, Xu et al. 2012), but will likely fail without political lobbying.

Although rapid infrastructure development is likely creating one of the biggest challenges for the conservation of migratory and nomadic ungulates, No Net Loss (NNL) or Net Positive Impact (NPI) policies adopted by industry, and newly emerging standards on Biodiversity Offsets (BBOP 2012) are powerful tools that may enable economic development to combine with biodiversity conservation, and offsets may actually provide a more flexible tool to conserve nomadic species (Bull et al. 2013). In Mongolia, the largest mine Oyu Tolgoi is operating on a NPI policy and Asiatic Wild Asses are a key species of concern.

Reintroductions have re-established the Asiatic Wild Ass in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Israel and somewhat expanded its range in Turkmenistan. The reintroduced populations contribute ~8% to the global population, but only managed to reoccupy a tiny fraction of the species former range. New reintroductions are currently discussed in Kazakhstan and Iran. However, care has to be taken that reintroduction projects do not distract attention and funds from conserving the remaining autochthonous populations.

Whereas increasing monitoring and research efforts are made in Mongolia, Israel, Xinjiang province in China, India and Bahram-e-Goor in Iran, little systematic information is available from Inner Mongolia and Gansu province in China, Touran protected area complex in Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Furthermore, major research gaps exist regarding: i) the human dimension of Asiatic Wild Ass management and conservation, ii) site specific population dynamics parameters, iii) triggers, drivers, and scale of nomadic or seasonal movements, iv) impact and mitigation of barriers.

A Programme of Work for the CMS Central Asian Mammal Initiative (CAMI) was agreed during the Stakeholder Meeting on the Conservation of Large Mammals in Central Asia, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (2325 September 2014) and included a recommendation to develop a single-species action plan for the Asiatic Wild Ass as a high priority.

Citation: Kaczensky, P., Lkhagvasuren, B., Pereladova, O., Hemami, M. & Bouskila, A. 2015. Equus hemionus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T7951A45171204. . Downloaded on 28 November 2015.
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