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Critically Endangered Somali Wild Ass Foal Beats The Odds

On the morning of November 13, 2021, Somali wild ass mare Mwana gave birth to little Salia. What sounds like good news was actually a race against time. The natural mother-young bond was broken after birth; Salia's survival was in danger. It was only thanks to the foresight of the veterinary team at Basel Zoo that the two of them trot together today.

Salia is the name of the youngest offspring of the Somali wild ass. As a descendant of the stallion Adam, who has few relatives in the European population, she is genetically a very important and valuable animal. The scenes that happened on the weekend of November 13th and 14th at Basel Zoo were therefore unsettling: the mare Mwana was visibly stressed and overwhelmed with the young animal after giving birth - which often happens with first-time mothers. This meant that the bond between mother and young animal could not develop properly. Mwana showed no interest in her boy and drove Salia away as soon as she wanted to drink. The chicks chances of survival dropped drastically.

A story with happy end

Basel Zoo wanted to refrain from hand-rearing. Good advice was expensive. Accordingly, the veterinary team at Basel Zoo got support from two horse specialists from the region on Monday, November 15, 2021. Together it was decided to give Mwana a hormone injection so that she could relive the birth hormonally. The vital bond between mother and foal was established within 30 minutes. For the first time, little Salia was allowed to drink extensively. Today the offspring is fine. She is playful and likes to test her long legs when she does sprints together with her mother in the outdoor area.

Salia is one of around 200 Somali wild asses living in zoos around the world. In nature, these donkeys are threatened with extinction and are among the rarest mammals. Only a few hundred animals still live in Ethiopia, Eritrea and perhaps Somalia. Wars, competition with the population's livestock and the meager food and water reserves have decimated their populations extremely in recent years. This makes the efforts of the zoological gardens all the more important with the European conservation breeding program, called EEP (ex situ program of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria EAZA) to preserve this rare mammal species. Basel Zoo coordinates the EEP of the Somali wild ass and maintains the international herd book.