Keepers at the United Kingdom's Chester Zoo are celebrating the arrival of two exceptionally rare Onagers. The foals were born within hours of each other to two different mothers on July 4 after year-long pregnancies.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo
The Onager is an Asiatic wild ass and was once found in abundance across the deserts of Mongolia, China, and Iran. Now, they are found in just two protected areas and over the past 16 years their numbers have declined by more than 50%.
“Onagers are the rarest equid species in the world and one of the rarest animals that we have here at the zoo, so we were absolutely delighted to have two foals arrive - one male and one female - during same night!” said Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo.
“We hope the foals themselves will one day go on to contribute to the international breeding program for the species, which is working to ensure there’s a sustainable population in zoos,” Rowlands said.
The species is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature after decades of illegal poaching, overgrazing, and disease passed on from farm animals. Research suggests that only 600 Onagers remain in the wild and very few zoos in the world work with the animals due to the challenges of breeding and keeping the species.
Chester Zoo is part of an international conservation effort and is helping to save Onagers from extinction through this successful breeding program.