The Indian wild ass or the Indian onager is a subspecies that belongs to the onager family and is native to Southern Asia. In the local Gujarati language, this animal is also called the Ghudkhur and Khur. It has a sandy coat and can have different colourations ranging from a reddish grey fawn to pale chestnut.
The Indian Wild Ass also has an erect dark mane that runs from the back of the head along the neck. The species was well spread throughout western India (present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh) at one point in time. However, it is currently marked as a near-threatened species by the IUCN and is native only to the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary.
In this article, discussed are the characteristics and status of Indian Wildlife Ass. These facts are important from the perspective of the IAS exam as questions based on Species in News are asked in UPSC prelims.
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Number of Indian Wild Ass
The animal had an estimated population of 4038 individuals, as found by the 2009 census. Since then, their population has been on the rise. In December 2014, the census estimated that the population had reached 4451 individuals.
Since 2014, the population of these animals has seen a rise of 34% and amounts to around 6082 individual animals as reported by the census conducted in the March of 2020. The species’ total population is a part of the current affairs that candidates must know by heart.
Threats to the Species
The Indian wild ass was commonly seen throughout the Western Parts of the Indian subcontinent. The reason behind the animal’s disappearance from its habitat remains unknown as the animal was never a hunting target for the Indian royal families. However, history books show that the Mughal Emperors took great pleasure in hunting it.
Secondly, during the late 1950s, Surra, a disease spread by flies, drastically reduced the population of the wild Indian ass. As a result, the population of the Indian Wild Ass had come down to a mere 870 individuals in 1961.
Finally, other threats to the wildlife include:
- Illegal salt panning activities.
- Invasive shrubs in their habitat result in the loss of food.
- Uncontrolled grazing by the Maldhari
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Conservation Measures for the Indian Wild Ass
The Indian wild ass is found in a little area called the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat. Since the area is arid and prone to drought, water holes were increased to supply water to these animals. In addition to that, the forest department increased fodder plots throughout the forest. These, alongside other measures, have increased the population of these animals. As a result, the species has now been found in other surrounding areas.
Finally, the Thar Desert in Rajasthan could be used as a reintroduction or an alternative site for re-establishing the Indian Wild Ass as recommended by the government of Gujarat and the report by Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation (GEER). Therefore, the aspirants preparing for the IAS exam should keep this information in mind.
Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary
The Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary is located in the little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India, and covers an area of 4954 square KMs. This establishment is also known as the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary and was built in 1972 under the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act. The establishment acts as the only home to the endangered Indian Wild Ass and is centred towards preserving the species.
The establishment faces a lot of illegal salt panning activities, which results in a threat to the species in the area. The illegal activity in this region is so widespread that almost 25 % of India’s salt supply comes from this region. Therefore, candidates must note that salt panning is essential for the UPSC syllabus.
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Other Related Links
Frequently Asked Question on the Indian Wild Ass
What is the IUCN?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international organization that conserves nature and the sustainable use of natural resources. The IUCN, founded in France on the 5th of October 1948, has been operating worldwide for 73 years.
What is the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972?
The Indian Parliament devised the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 to protect and conserve the various species of flora and fauna in the country. The Wildlife Act was enacted on the 9th of September 1972.
Who are the Maldharis?
The Maldharis are a tribal herders’ community located in the Gir Forest region in the Junagadh District in Gujarat. They are also recognised as the traditional dairymen of the region who supplied milk to the royal palaces. The term Maldhari is occupational and defines people from various castes and communities.