Birth of foal from critically endangered species cause for celebration

The new arrival, who is yet to be named, is doing well, according to zookeepers.
The new arrival, who is yet to be named, is doing well, according to zookeepers. © Africa Alive Zoological Reserve

A British zoo is celebrating the arrival of a critically endangered Somali Wild Ass foal, one of the rarest equine species left in the world.

There with fewer than 200 mature adults estimated to be left in the wild according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (ICUN) Red List of Threatened Species. They are often mistaken for donkeys with striped legs.

The youngster was born to mother Calula and father Sahib on June 30 at the Africa Alive Zoological Reserve at Keesingland in Suffolk, owned by the conservation charity Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA).

Breeding programmes are vital for the survival of this rare species, and this new foal is an important part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, which ZSEA has been a part of since 2004.

Haylee Parker, Zoo Animal Management Team Leader at Africa Alive Zoological Reserve, said staff were over the moon about the newest addition. “These animals are often underrated and mistaken for a stripey-legged donkey, however, they are in fact one of the rarest equines in the world.

“Conservation programmes such as the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme are incredibly important for the survival of these species, ensuring that the animals are genetically paired to create healthy populations of critically endangered animals.

“Both mother and foal are doing very well and are visible in the paddock – they are already getting lots of attention from our visitors,” Parker said.

Calula first arrived at Africa Alive in 2007 from Basel Zoo in Switzerland and has given birth to six foals, the last born in 2019, with two having been sired by Sahib who arrived at the park in 2016 from Tierpark, Berlin.

Somali Wild Ass are found in small patches of the rocky deserts of northeast Africa and their ‘critically endangered’ ICUN status is a result of war, hunting and habitat loss in the wild.

The Zoological Society of East Anglia plays an active role in European Endangered Species Breeding Programmes for a range of species to help protect animals like the Somali Wild Ass from extinction.

Visitors can visit the rare Somali Wild Ass foal and watch as it begins to explore its new home.

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