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The Persian Wild Ass

Iran Nature and Wildlife Magazine

Embranchement : Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Genus: Equus
Species: E. heminous
Sub Species: E. h. onager

Features : Persian Wild Ass (Onager) is outwardly similar to domesticated asses but a little largerin size. Ears are shorter and a tuft of long hair is visible at the end of the tail. ThePersian ass has an orange - yellow coat, however the sides, underparts and back areseen as white. It has a black mane which is visible on the neck and a dark brown spinal band stretching up to the tail. Both sexes are outwardly similar, however males are larger, weighing approximately250 Kilogrammes. Shoulder height is 1.5 meters. 

equus1.jpg (29765 bytes)Habitat : Persian asses live in flat desert regions and surrounding foothills. These harsh, barren regions are hot during the day and cool at night, with little rainfall. 

Food : Persian wild asses are herbivores feeding on foliage, grass, herbs and bushes. They receive most of their necessary water from these plants. Amongst these, green fresh grass forms their favourite food.Asses usually graze in the morning and afternoon when it's cooler.  The ass is well-adapted to its environment, with high crowned molars that can grindtough food and which regrow as they are worn away. The ass also has a gut which contains the tiny microscopic protozoa, which helps digest grasses inedible to other animals. Also, compard to other mammals of similar habitat, asses need to drink more water. During hot summer days, they drink water nearly every day from springs which are less than 20 kilometers from their grazing land. 

Breeding : Mating takes place in mid-June. At this time, males fight each other, which includes biting and kicking. Most asses lose a part of their tail during these fights.  Gestation lasts for about one year; this period is about %20 longer than ruminants of similar size. Therefore, fowls are born having a more complete growth. They can follow the mare shortly after birth. 

The mare leaves the herd for a safe place before giving birth. Each mare gives birth to one young only, and a strong bond exists between the female ass and her fowl which lasts for the first two years of the foal's life. During this time, the mare defends herfowl against all other animals. 

Stallions become sexually mature at 2 years but due to competition with otherstallions, they usually don't succeed is mating until 4 years of age. Sexual maturity in females depends on their food. Usually, they are capable of mating and breeding at 2 years of age; the persian mare breeds every other year. Persian asses have a lifespan of about 40 years.

Habits : Asses live in herds, though old stallions are usually solitary. The mare and her fowlalso live together or in herds that are entirely made up of female asses and their fowls.

Persian asses are active during the day, becoming most active early in the morningand in the evening. However, in places where they feel they have less protection, theyalso become active at night, prefering to drink from springs at mid-night. The ass has keen senses and can smell humans from a far distance. Persian asses run at 60-70 kilometers per hour over short distancesbut after while this speed is reduced to 40-50 hour.they move for hours without becoming tired. 

Distribution : Persian wild asses live only in Iran. Once they were common in most of the Central and southern plains of the country. Today, its distribution has been limited to Touran Protected Area in Semnan province and Bahram Gour Protected Area in Fars province. 

Situation and Conservation : The population of Persian wild asses has declined severely due to hunting, competition with livestock for food and water, and loss of natural habitats. The Persian wild ass is currently in danger of extinction. 

This species which lives only in Iran has been designated as a protected species since30 years ago. Its hunting is prohibited in all seasons of the year. All its major habitats are also Protected Areas. 

One of the measures taken by the Department of Environment in Iran to ensure itssurvival, has been the transfer of 7 heads from "Touran" Area to "Khoush yeelagh"Protected Area in Shahroud, where they were set free in 1971.  These asses have since continued living successfully in this area.