The Times of India: Ahmedabad: Saturday, December 19, 2015.
The chances of the Wild Ass escaping extinction have improved, largely due to conservation efforts made by the state government.This is evident from the fact that the animal, which is found only in the Little Rann of Kutch, has been moved from the `endangered ' category to the `nearly threatened' category of animals in the latest Red List of International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) prepared on the basis of its May 2015 report. The Wild Ass is locally known as `ghudkhar'.
The `nearly threatened' category is lower down in the IUCN's Red List of animals facing threat of extinction. The `endangered' category includes animals which are more at risk than those in the `nearly threatened' category . Just below the `nearly threatened' group is the `least concern' category which has animals that are unlikely to go extinct.
The IUCN report says that the population of the Wild Ass has been re-established and it is increasing. In Gujarat, there were 4,451wild asses as per the 2014 census. In 2004, their number was 3,863; this increased to 4,000 in 2009.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests HC Pant said, “I have not seen the latest report but the state has recorded a 10% rise in wild ass numbers, especially in the past five years.“
The IUCN report, however, makes remarks specific to Gujarat. It states that the wild ass faces threats on several fronts.“Threats to Wild Ass in the Little Rann of Kutch stem from increasing human activities. Land use patterns have changed since the mega Narmada Dam project which resulted in Sardar Sarovar canals all around the protected area. Uninformed release of Sardar Sarovar canal excess waters into the Rann is having an impact on the micro-habitat, the short grasslands and is restricting the movement of wild ass and other species across the saline desert,“ the report states.
It further states that increased agricultural practices have converted lands into irrigation fields, resulting in shrinking habitat for the existing wild ass population. Religious activities, cattle breeding and influx of people have increased on the islands (or Bets) of the Rann.
Further, the widespread growth of `prosopis juliflora' (an invasive weed) is an additional threat to the wild ass habitat. An estimated 30-35% of the wild ass population lives outside the protected area and human-wild ass conflicts are increasing.