Oxford Dictionary definition: 1. Domestic ass 2. colloquial stupid person
Our definition: The donkey’s wild ancestor, the African Wild Ass, is well suited to life in a desert or semi-desert environment, having a tough digestive system which can break down desert vegetation and extract moisture from food efficiently. They can also go without water for a fairly long time. Their large ears give them an excellent sense of hearing and help in cooling. Because of the sparse vegetation in their environment wild asses live somewhat separated from each other (except for mothers and young), unlike the tightly grouped herds of wild horses. They have very loud voices, which can be heard for over 3 km (1.9 mi), which helps them to keep in contact with other asses over the wide spaces of the desert.
Mature males defend large territories around 23 square kilometres in size, marking them with dung heaps – an essential marker in the flat, monotonous terrain. Due to the size of these ranges, the dominant male cannot exclude other males. Rather, intruders are tolerated—recognized and treated as subordinates, and kept as far away as possible from any of the resident females.
Wild asses can run swiftly, almost as fast as a horse. However, their tendency is to not flee right away from a potentially dangerous situation, but to investigate first before deciding what to do. When they need to, they can defend themselves with kicks from both their front and hind legs.
Though the species itself is under no threat of extinction, due to abundant domestic stock, the two extant wild subspecies are both listed as critically endangered. African wild asses have been captured for domestication for centuries, and this, along with interbreeding between wild and domestic animals, has caused a distinct decline in population numbers. There are now only a few hundred individuals left in the wild. These animals are also hunted for food and for traditional medicine in both Ethiopia and Somalia. Competition with domestic livestock for grazing, and restricted access to water supplies caused by agricultural developments, pose further threats to their survival. The African wild ass is legally protected in the countries where it is currently found, although these measures often prove difficult to enforce.
There are more than 40 million ‘domesticated’ donkeys in the world, mostly in developing countries where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries.
The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon works hard to transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide through greater understanding, collaboration and support, and by promoting lasting, mutually life-enhancing relationships. They work inclusively with people frequently marginalised within their own countries and communities, whether due to poverty, ignorance, race, gender or disabilities. They treat every interaction as a two-way opportunity to learn and to teach. “We know that it is only together that we can help donkey owners and carers become donkey welfare ambassadors wherever they live and work.”
Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, in love with them since childhood, made it her life’s mission to rescue abused, neglected and abandoned donkeys and founded The Donkey Sanctuary in 1969. She said,
“To me they are the most beautiful, the most underrated animals in the world – and, as long as they need my help, they shall have it.”
is finished for the time being.
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