New onager arrives at Whipsnade
Thursday 9 June 2005
On your next visit to Whipsnade, be sure to come and see Tauran, our new male onager
Named after a wildlife reserve in Iran, this four year old Asian wild ass (Equus hemionus)has recently arrived from Hamburg Zoo and has been brought here as part of a breeding programme to ensure genetic diversity in the species. He can be seen horsing around the paddock next to the Asia Drivethrough with our four resident mares. As keeper Joy Lear says “He has settled in very well with the girls and they are certainly appreciating a little male attention!”
A member of the horse family, the onager is the fastest of the species, able to run up to 43mph (70kph) which is vital to its survival in the wild where one of its main predators are wolves. Native to the arid regions of Asia, onagers are capable of surviving long periods of time without water and are entirely vegetarian, feeding on grass, herbs, bark and succulent plants.
Classed as vulnerable by the IUCN, the current population is estimated at under 14,000 mature individuals and this appears to be decreasing. Threats to the species include direct competition with grazing livestock, increasing human activities resulting in loss of habitat, and poaching for meat and hides.