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Chile Zoo celebrates birth of critically endangered Somali Wild donkey

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – A rare Somali Wild Donkey foal was born in a Chilean zoo, sparking hope for a critically endangered species with less than 200 mature individuals left worldwide.

The Buin Zoo in the southern outskirts of Santiago is taking part in an international effort to help restore the Somali Wild Ass population that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified as critically endangered.

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“We’re really happy to be telling this news during such difficult times for conservation for so many species,” said Ignacio Idalsoaga, founder and director of the Buin Zoo, adding that the foal unveiled on Thursday makes it the zoo’s fifth specimen.

An African Somali wild foal, which was born in captivity, is shown in its enclosure for the first time to the public, as part of a conservation project of this animal in danger of extinction, at the Buin zoo, Santiago, Chile July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

“It’s great news for the conservation of a wild donkey that’s disappearing from the earth and we have the capacity to reproduce it here, at the edge of the world, in Chile,” Idalsoaga said.

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The remaining Somali Wild Donkey population, according to the IUCN, is left in Eritrea and Ethiopia with the largest recorded subpopulation being just 17 individuals. The population has dropped 95% in the last 35 years in Ethiopia and it is not known whether any remain in Somalia.

Populations have declined dramatically due to the loss of habitat and hunting for food or medicinal purposes.

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“The bones are used in soups that supposedly have medicinal characteristics that haven’t been scientifically proven, but it’s practically brought on the extinction of a beautiful species,” Idalsoaga said.

The zoo saw two foals born in 2021, which were named Lucrecia and Ita. The new foal, which is just a few weeks old, is still unnamed.

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