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Dallas Zoo welcomes 2 extremely rare Somali wild ass foals

Friday August 4, 2017

The Dallas Zoo welcomed two rare Somali wild ass foals last month, born 10 days apart.
Kalila, whose name means "dearly loved" in Arabic, was born July 9 to mother Liberty and father Abai. It's their third foal together, having had two before at the St. Louis Zoo, but their first at the Dallas Zoo.

Naima, which means "calm" in Arabic, was born July 19 to first-time mother Hani and Abai. (Fun fact: Hani was photographed with her sister by Joel Sartore for his Photo Ark project.)

"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 in a written statement. "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."

Somali wild asses have been hunted for food in their native countries of Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, where they also compete with livestock for limited land and water resources. Some people believe their fat treats tuberculosis and they are often killed for use in traditional medicine, the zoo said.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Somali wild ass Species Survival Plan is aimed, in part, at increasing the rare animal's numbers in human care. Abai arrived in the U.S. in 2005 from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to bring a new bloodline to the country.

Somali wild asses can grow to about 4 feet at the shoulder and weigh about 600 pounds, but they are the smallest of the wild equids, which includes horses and zebras, the zoo said.

At 65 pounds, Kalila was born weighing 14 pounds more than Naima, mammal supervisor Christine Rickel said.
"These little girls have brought so much excitement to our hoofstock barn," she said in a written statement.

The animal looks like a combination of several others — with zebra-striped legs, a gray body and a face that resembles a horse or a donkey. Their small hooves can help them navigate rocky slopes, the zoo said.

The foals were standing, walking and nursing within minutes, and are now bonding behind the scenes with their mothers. They've met each other, but their protective moms haven't let them play together yet, the zoo said.

When they're ready, the foals will be introduced to their arid habitat off the monorail in the Wilds of Africa, where they'll join the gemsbok, addax and ostriches.


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