The Indian Wild Ass, also known as the Indian onager, is a subspecies of the onager (Asiatic wild ass) native to South Asia. The scientific name is Equus hemionus khur and it is popularly called Ghud Khur in the local Gujarati language.
Indian Wild Ass is found predominantly in the Little Rann of Kutch and its surrounding areas in the Gujarat province of India. The species is listed as Near Threatened by IUNC.
The census held in December 2014 estimated their population at 4,451. However, the Gujarat Forest Department reports a steep rise of 37% in their population since 2014. The population has reached 6,082, according to the census conducted in March 2020.
Indian Wild Ass - Key Features
- The Indian Wild Ass differs significantly from the African wild ass species. They have sandy coats that vary from reddish grey to pale chestnut in colour.
- They have a dark mane that runs from the back of the head along their neck. Dark brown stripes run along their back to the root of the tail.
- The species feeds on grass, plant leaves and fruits, crops, and saline vegetation. They graze between dawn and dusk.
- Indian Wild Ass is one of the fastest Indian animals, with a speed of 70-80km per hour. They can easily outrun a jeep.
- They live either solitarily, in small groups, or in large family herds.
Indian Wild Ass - Threats
A disease called surra dramatically decreased the population of Indian Wild Ass during the 1960s. Further, the outbreak of South African Horse Sickness reduced their number to just 870 in November-December 1961.
Other threats to the species apart from the disease include:
- Habitat degradation due to illegal salt degradation activities
- Invasion of exotic plants such as Prosopis juliflora shrub
- Encroaching and grazing by Maldhari herdsmen
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Indian Wild Ass- Characteristics
- IUCN gave Indian Wild Ass the Near Threatened status. Hence they require special protection under Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
- Their range once extended from Southern India to southern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and south-eastern Iran. Now the last refuge of Indian Wild Ass is the dessert Rann of Kachchh.
- The significant population of Indian Wild Ass is in Little Rann of Kachchh. The area is declared a Wild Ass Sanctuary, covering an area of 4953.70 Sq.km. The establishment is centred on preserving the species.
- Since the desert area is arid and prone to drought, the Forest Department has made provision for artificial waterholes in the fringe area to supply water to the Indian Wild Ass. The forest department has also started a project for having fodder plots throughout the forest.
The population of Indian Wild Ass has been increasing in number. It has extended its range from Little Rann of kutch to the neighbouring state of Rajasthan.
The Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation (GEER) report released a few years ago recommended that the Thar Desert in Rajasthan be developed as an alternative site for reestablishing the Indian Wild Ass. It can be done by reintroducing a few of them in the desert.
FAQs on Indian Wild Ass
Q.1. Where is the last refuge of the Indian Wild Ass?
The Little Rann of Kutch and its surrounding areas in the Gujarat province of India is the last refuge of the Indian Wild Ass.
Q.2. What is the population of Indian Wild Ass as the March 2020 census?
The population of Indian Wild Ass has reached 6,082 according to the census conducted in March 2020.
Q.3. Under what category has the IUCN classified the Indian Wild Ass?
The IUCN has classified the Indian Wild Ass as a Near Threatened species.
Q.4. What are the threats faced by Indian Wild Ass?
Habitat degradation, invasion of Prosopis juliflora shrub, and encroaching and grazing by Maldhari herdsmen are the major threats faced by Indian Wild Ass.
Q.5. Which site is recommended by GEER for reestablishing Indian Wild Ass?
The GEER report recommended that the Thar Desert in Rajasthan be developed as an alternative site for reestablishing the Indian Wild Ass.