Domestic Dogs chasing Indian Wild Ass, Little Rann of Kutch

by Rana and Sugandhi Belur
Rana and Sugandhi Belur

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

We receive several images of domestic / feral dogs attacking wild prey. These dog populations, from nearby human settlements, travel into wildlife habitat, increasing the potential for pathogen transmission to wildlife.

The Indian Wild Ass or Khur (Equus hemionus khur), is an endangered animal with its last refuge in India’s only wild ass sanctuary. The Khur was formerly widespread in the arid zone of northwestern India and Pakistan, westwards through much of central Asia. However, it is now limited to the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India. The khur probably went extinct in Baluchistan and the extreme south of Pakistan, on the Indian border, during the 1960s (Corbet and Hill 1992).

It was a joy to see them in their herds, grazing, lazing and galloping in the rann. We found one such wild ass all alone, but had mongrels for company. They were chasing the wild ass.

The wild ass doesn’t have any known predators. However, the destruction of the habitat due to salt pans in the rann, the invasion of the exotic Prosopis juliflora shrub, encroachment and grazing by local herders form their main threats. Also, from 1958-1960, the wild ass became a victim of a fatal disease known as surra, caused by Trypanosoma evansi and transmitted by flies, caused a dramatic decline of its population in India. In 1961, the wild ass population was further reduced due to the outbreak of South African Horse Sickness — another fatal disease.

Are domestic / feral dogs another threat to the wild ass? Were these dogs trying to prey on it, though in this case, the ass escaped?

Editor’s note: We receive several images of domestic / feral dogs attacking wild prey. These dog populations, from nearby human settlements, travel into wildlife habitat, increasing the potential for pathogen transmission to wildlife. Studies have shown that dogs harbour several diseases that can be deadly not only to humans (such as rabies) but to wild carnivore species (like tigers, leopards, foxes and wild dogs) as well. Dogs also transmit diseases such as canine distemper virus (CDV) and canine parvovirus (CPV). A simple tag search for domestic dogs lists the other posts.

About the author

Rana and Sugandhi Belur
Rana and Sugandhi are Bangalore-based nature and wildlife lovers.


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