NO. 24 DATE 07/18/00

Conservation Issues for Wild Zebra, Asses, and Horses in Africa and Asia

By: Patricia D. Moehlman
Chair, World Conservation Union (IUCN), Species Survival Commission, Equid Specialist Group

The second in a series of 13, Session 1

The long range goal of the Equid Specialist Group, IUCN is to conserve biological diversity by developing and executing programs to study, save, restore, and wisely manage wild equids and their habitats. Thus, the following information is relevant because conservation issues for wild native equids are similar to those facing wild horses and burros in the USA and management lessons can be learned from a comparative perspective.

Family Equidae is composed of zebras, asses, and horses. During the Pleistocene they were the most abundant medium-sized grazing animals of the grasslands and steppes of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Today there remain only seven species. In Africa, the African wild ass (Equus africanus) is critically endangered, the Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) and the Mountain zebra (Equus zebra) are endangered, and the Plains zebra (Equus burchelli) is dependent on conservation support. In Asia, the Asian wild ass (Equus hemionus) is vulnerable with some subspecies in an endangered state. The Kiang (Equus kiang) is considered a lower risk, but data are inadequate for the assessment of the status of two of the subspecies. The Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalski), or Takhi, exists in captivity, but is extinct in the wild. Re-introduction projects for the Tahki are occurring in China and Mongolia. The majority of species in this small family are endangered or vulnerable. Equids are significant for conservation both for their unique genetic heritage and their role as flagship species for the conservation of biodiversity in desert and grassland ecosystems in Africa and Asia.

Most endangered equids live in desert ecosystems. These habitats are not rich in species, but do contain unique and endemic animals and plants. Zebras, asses, and horses can serve as ‘flagship’ species for the conservation of desert ecosystems and their biodiversity.

At present better information is needed on:

National capability in all the range nations needs to be supported by training and a communication network. In addition, the involvement of local communities in the conservation of their natural resources is fundamental to the future of these species. Conservation of wildlife and natural resources often results in economic and cultural deprivation for local resource users. It is important to develop economic and political mechanisms which allow local people to benefit from the conservation of wildlife.

Patricia D. Moehlman, PhD., Chair, IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group
Box 2031, Arusha, Tanzania phone 011-255-57-7504
fax 011-255-57-8271

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