African wild ass (Equus asinus somalicus)

Somali Wild Ass

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At the top of the zoo, this species has their very own road train stop!

Fast facts

Status Critically Endangered

Size Head and body length: 200cm (average). Tail length: 42cm (average).

Weight Up to 275kg

Gestation 11-12 months

Young 1

Life span 25-30 years

What do I eat?

These animals are herbivores and will graze on different grasses, as well as bushes and leaves from low hanging branches. They have even been known to stand on their back legs to reach food from higher tree branches.

The African wild ass is active during the coolest times of the day, mostly at dawn and dusk. During the heat of the day it will rest in shady areas. Its also known to be active during the night, in order to find good grazing areas.

Where do I live?

These animals are found within arid areas, semi-arid bush and grasslands in Ethiopia and Somalia, Africa.


African wild ass are social animals, they form loose herds where individuals can come and go. They are able to breed from between 2-5 years old, with females maturing quicker and are able to breed earlier than males.

They give birth to one foal every two years, normally during the wet season. Mares give birth close to their herd and the foal is able to stand and follow its mother within an hour of being born. African wild ass foals grow very quickly. By the time they are a year old, they are weaned from their mother and are about half of their adult size.


Wolves are known to hunt young African wild ass, but humans are the main predators of these animals.

When threatened, African wild ass will give out an alarm call and then run away. These animals are very quick, reaching speeds of 30mph. However if cornered, they are known to kick out very hard, which is often enough to scare off most threats.


These animals are hunted for their meat, which is known to be used in traditional medicines; as some cultures believe it can cure diseases such as hepatitis. Due to the increase in demand for land for agriculture, African wild ass are often competing for grazing areas and access to water sources with livestock. They have also been known to interbreed with domestic horses and donkeys, which is further reducing the number of African wild ass in the wild.

The African wild ass is legally protected in the countries they are found in, although this has often proved to be difficult to enforce. Typically populations of horses and asses are fairly resilient, and if properly protected they may well recover from their current low.

Did you know?

African wild ass can survive a few days without water; as they will gain as much moisture as they can from their food.

The soles of their hooves are particularly hard and grow very quickly.


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Group Visits

Class trip to Marwell Zoo

Thank you so much for a lovely trip. The children, staff and parents all had a wonderful day. The staff were all very friendly and helpful. It was the perfect environment for a class trip, the children loved seeing the animals and the grounds were beautiful for our picnics. Thank you to… Read full reviewMichelle, 14th July 2015