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African Wild Ass (Equus africanus) & Domesticated Donkey (Equus asinus) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Population estimates

  • Equus africanus
    • 23-200 mature individuals (Moehlman et al. 2015)
    • Possibly as many as 400 individuals, if additional sampling conducted in Eritea (Moehlman et al. 2016)

Total number of donkeys (Equus asinus) estimated worldwide: 44 million and increasing (Starkey & Starkey 1997)

  • Donkeys are valuable work animals for much of the world's poor and rural populations as well as industrializing nations that as yet do not have widespread access to motor vehicles for transportation. (Starkey & Starkey 1997)

Total number of mules (a donkey/horse hybrid) worldwide estimated at 15 million (Starkey & Starkey 1997)


Conservation History

1598: Spanish explorer Juan de Onate brought horses and probably donkeys to U.S. Southwest. (Grinder et al 2006)

1599: First wild donkeys recorded in U.S. (Grinder et al 2006)

Late 1800's: Donkeys imported to Western Australia for transportation and labor before railroads established.

Total number of observed African Wild Asses (Equus africanus) in Ethiopia and Eritrea is 70. A rough estimate of a total population is 600. (IUCN Red List 2008)

  • Of this total number, only 23 mature individuals are recorded with a maximum number around 200 individuals.
  • In Ethiopia, the Yangudi-Rassa National Park (4,731 km²) and the Mille-Serdo Wild Ass Reserve (8,766 km²) were established in 1969. (IUCN Red List 2008)
  • In Eritrea, the government designated the African Wild Ass area between the Buri Peninsula and the Dalool Depression as a high-priority area for protection as a nature reserve. (IUCN Red List 2008)
  • No protected areas in Somalia. Some populations maintained in managed care settings. (IUCN Red List 2008)

1986: 57 African Wild Asses in managed card

1999: 94 African Wild Asses in managed care

1971: Feral donkeys in U.S. subject to Wild, Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 (Grinder et al 2006)

  • Law requires protection, management, and control of horses and burros on public lands
  • National Park Service is exempt from this law and may remove burros dead or alive from its lands.

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

CITES Status

Threats to Survival

(Equus africanus) (Moehlman et al. 2015, IUCN Red List 16-2)

  • Hunting for food and medicinal purposes (*primary threat)
    • Body parts used for treating tuberculosis, constipation, rheumatism, backache, and bone ache
  • Lack of forage and water
    • Due to competition with livestock
  • Interbreeding with the domestic donkey (Groves 2002)
    • "However, there is no scientific evidence that indicates hybridization of Equus africanus somaliensis with domestic donkeys (Kebede 2013)" (IUCN 2016)
  • Human disturbance, war, civil unrest, military exercises
  • Climate change and severe weather
    • Droughts

Page Citations

IUCN Red List (2008)
Grinder et al (2006)
Groves (2002)
Starkey & Starkey (1997)

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