Backlit Indian onager
Backlit Indian onager. Indian wild ass stallion backlit at sunset on the dry dusty plains of the Rann. Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India.
The Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) is a unique habitat comprising of saline desert plains, thorny scrubland, arid grasslands, wetlands and marshes.
Backlit Indian onager – About the Indian Wild Ass:
The Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur) is a handsome chestnut-brown and white member of the equus genus, native to Asia. They are also known as the Indian onager, Ghudkhur, or simply ‘Khur’ in the local Gujarati language. Khur are found in Saline deserts (rann), arid grasslands and shrubland.
Indian wild asses are endemic to the the Little Rann of Kutch, a salty desert in Western Gujarat. Here they can be seen grazing on grass, leaves and saline vegetation. They are one of the fastest Indian animals, able to reach speeds of 70 – 80 km per hour.
Stallions are primarily solitary, or seen in small groups of young males. However family herds can be large, often seen in groups of 20+ individuals. The mating season takes place during the monsoon when the arid desert plains become one of Indias largest wetlands. When a mare is ready to mate, she will separate from the herd with a stallion who battles against rivals for dominance.
Wild Ass Conservation:
The Indian wild asses range once extended throughout Western India, Southern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and South-eastern Iran. Today, its last refuge is the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India.
The first wild ass census was completed in 1940, when there were an estimated 3,500 individuals. However, from 1958-1960 the wild ass became a victim of a disease known as surra, which caused a dramatic population decline and the figure fell to just 362.
At this point it was classified as critically endangered and a major conservation effort began to save the Indian Wild Ass from extinction. In the years that followed, the Little Rann of Kutch and adjoining districts were designated as a Wild Ass Sanctuary that covers an area of 4954 km². The number of artificial water holes were increased in the area, and a project began to increase the available food.
The current census of 2015 puts the Indian wild ass population at more than 4,800 individuals and it is now listed as Near Threatened by IUCN.
Ongoing threats include habitat degradation due to salt panning activities, the invasion of the Prosopis juliflora shrub, and encroachment and grazing by the Maldhari tribes.
Due to the isolated nature of the population they are highly susceptible to further outbreaks of disease. The Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation (GEER) has recommended that additional populations should be introduced in suitable habitat such as the Thar desert in Rajasthan.
You can find out more about Wild Ass here.
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