Dallas Zoo Welcomes Two Rare and Endangered Asses

Posted by Jason Sarna
Somali wild ass babies
Long Room

Jokes aside--the staff at the Dallas Zoo is thrilled with the arrival of these wild asses.

For the first time in its 129-year history, the Dallas Zoo welcomes two extremely rare Somali wild ass foals.

Half-sisters Kalila and Naima were born just 10 days apart to mama wild asses Liberty and Hani. Their father, Abai, was brought over in 2005 from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to help bring a new bloodline of asses to the U.S.

"This is a big moment for our hoofstock team. Somali wild asses are critically endangered with less than 600 left in the wild," mammal curator John Fried said. "Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career."

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Native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa--Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea--the Somali wild asses' numbers have dropped drastically in the wild due to hunting and growing competition with livestock for limited sources.

When compared to other wild equids (horses, asses, and zebras), Somali wild asses are the smallest. Standing about four feet at the shoulder and weighing roughly 600 pounds, these animals also have the smallest hooves of any equid, which help them navigate rocky slopes.

Although they are family, when Liberty, Hani, and their foals were first introduced to each other, the protective mamas were hesitant to allow the little ones to play together, as they just want to run in circles to their hearts' content.

Check out the hilarious video of the foals below:

Soon the babies will venture into the arid habitat off the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail. And, in time, they'll meet the gemsbok, addax, and ostriches with whom they'll eventually share the habitat.

Stay tuned to the Dallas Zoo for more updates as these precious girls continue to grow.

What's the rarest animal you've ever seen? Let us know in the comments below.

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Dallas Zoo Welcomes Two Rare and Endangered Asses