ZOOKEEPERS in Chester are celebrating the birth of one of the planet’s rarest animals.
The onager, related to the domestic donkey, is an Asiatic wild ass, which lives in the semi-desert regions of Iran.
The unnamed male was born to first-time mum Zarrin on June 10 and keepers at Chester Zoo say he is doing “very, very well”.
Once common in most of the central and southern plains of Iran, onagers are now found in just two protected areas.
Threatened by illegal poaching, overgrazing and disease passed from domestic livestock, there are believed to be only about 400 left in the wild and only a handful of zoos in the world keep the species.
However, Chester is part of an international conservation scheme, and a breeding programme is helping to ensure the animals are not lost to extinction.
Curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said: “Our young onager is doing very, very well and Zarrin is proving to be a natural mother.
“The species is critically endangered and so the new foal is a valuable addition to the safety net population found in zoos.
“Sadly, as the rarest species of equid in the world, there is a very real possibility they could become extinct in the wild and so constant conservation attention is required to secure the future of the species.”