It has been a wonderful seven months since my first blog post about studying the Somali wild ass (see Wild Horses!) at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. Since then I have collected behavioral and hormone data to help answer some of my original questions. These included figuring out how Somali wild asses spend their time and determining factors that cause certain animals to spend time with some animals but not others. What we have learned is that the Somali wild ass is an amazing social animal. They have associations within the herd that remain consistent, and those associations are reflected in their behavior. Since the last post we have had two newborn Somalis. Play behavior appears to be important in the development of this species, which might serve many functions later in life.
We have also started collaborating with the St. Louis Zoo to combine our efforts to help conserve this rare equid. This will include combining our data sets to provide the best information possible. Additionally, based on the results from the first seven months, I am planning on using this information to set up an additional research study to be started at the beginning of the year. The new study will be examining the effects of scent enrichment (vanilla, orange, and mint extracts) on Somali wild ass behavior. The goal of the enrichment is to increase exploration of the environment, which is a behavior we believe to be associated with animal well-being.
Have a wonderful holiday and a safe and happy new year!
Lance Miller is a research coordinator at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.