All jokes aside about their name, we are getting quite a kick out of the Dallas Zoo’s new — also exceedingly rare and critically endangered — Somali wild ass babies.
On Tuesday, the zoo introduced its two new residents, half-sisters Kalila and Naima, on Facebook. The beautiful, bucking girls were born just 10 days apart to mama wild asses Liberty and Hani. Their father, Abai, was brought over in 2005 from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to help bring a new bloodline of asses to the U.S.
“This is a big moment for our hoofstock team. Somali wild asses are critically endangered with less than 600 left in the wild,” said mammal curator John Fried in the zoo’s recent press release. “Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career.”
Kalila, whose name means “dearly loved” in Arabic, was born on July 9 to 13-year-old Liberty, while Naima, whose name means “calm” was born on July 19 to first-time mom Hani, who is 5 years old. The animals are herbivores and have a life expectancy of 40 years.
“These little girls have brought so much excitement to our hoofstock barn,” said mammal supervisor Christine Rickel in the press release. “Although they were born 10 days apart, they look vastly different. We joke that Liberty has super milk because Kalila’s already a big girl. She was born weighing 65 pounds – 14 pounds heavier than Naima.”
The moms and foals were introduced to each other last week, but the mothers are protective of their babies. Thus far they are hesitant to let their little ones play together, preferring that the energetic foals find their footing (i.e. run around in circles!) on their own.
Somali wild asses are native to the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. Their numbers have drastically dwindled for a number of reasons, including competition with other livestock for limited land and water supplies, crossbreeding with domestic asses and the local traditions of hunting this unique species for food and medicine. (Some believe the animals’ fat treats tuberculosis.)
With beautifully Zebra-esque striped legs, soft gray fur, a white belly and spiky black-and-gray manes, these asses stand out from the wild equid pack. They are also the smallest of the equids, standing at 4 ft. at the shoulder and weighing about 600 lbs. in adulthood. Their hooves, which are also the smallest of the equids, help them navigate steep, rocky terrain.
Zookeeper Laura Frazier caught the behind-the-scenes, playful moments of these wild little ladies and their moms in the video above, but you can see them for yourself from the zoo’s Adventure Safari monorail.