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Kyang, the Ass: A Symbol of the Wild Liberty

By Bhushan Parimoo

Aristotle once said that whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a God. In this regard the state of Jammu and Kashmir is fortunate enough to have both of these. As regards to the wild in solitude Jammu, Kashmir & Ladhak State is in possession of the Kyang a species of Wild ass .Which has maintained all along its unalloyed wildness . Scientist pronounce it Kaing as called it in Ladhaki but in actual pronunciation is Kyang referred by Late Pushkarnath Koul, who served there in early late fifties as Tehsildar and later as Divisional Commissioner in Ladhak division later retired as Chief Secretary of the state. In his memories “Ladhak, My Journey Up, down and across “. Belongs to Equidae family of Equus genus of subgenus Asinus, specie E.Kaing is neither a hostile nor harmful. First said to be described in India by the ancient Greek Physician Ctesias , a monk from Japan Ehai Kawaguchi who travelled in Tibet for about two from 1900, a naturist Historian Chis Laves describe it a source of inspiration. Has not compromised its birth right of freedom at any costs thus far .Maintain zealously the sanctity of the territory , ,where it is found in the State never allow interfere the self-drawn Lakshaman Rekha, under any circumstances it appears. Confined themselves all the time in their own world around Rupshu and Changthang province like including Tsomoriri, Chumur, Chushul, Tsokar and Markha valley of Ladhak Division. They live on their own without any help from people find their own food, shelter, water and all its other needs in a specific natural high biotopes in trans-Himalayan cold desert often near marshes or wetlands between 4000 and 5200 high elevation. Kiang eats different kind of grasses, shrubs and roots teeth and lips of kiang are adapted for tearing and chewing of tough vegetation grazes throughout the day, Kyang occasionally drinks water. More frequently kiang absorbs required moisture from the food (various grasses). This is adaptation to the life in dry habitats with scarce sources of water. Earlier Kyang specie had been regarded by some as a race of the Asiatic Wild Ass (Khur). Which later studies proved it otherwise now it is recognized as a separate species? Out of four Species Kyang has only one is found in Ladakh the Western Kiang (E.k.kiang) and parts of Spiti (Himachal) and the Southern Kiang (E.k.polydon) in Sikkim. Besides other two Kaing (Tibetan wild ass, khyang, or gorkhar) Equus kiang an Eastern Kiang Equus kiang holdereri has their habitat in Tibet plateau and bordering Nepal. Kyang has remained so far every inch true to its name wild in all respects. Eluded the humans to use it as beast of burden. There is no history of its ever being tamed and domesticated. Attempts must have been made to tame it and utilise its services as a pack animal which has been always required in the area to supplement growing need to find adequate and dependable primitive mode of transport deliverance system, man has evolved. Domesticated two humps, Bactrian camel, at time Sheep are also used as a pack animals, besides humans from both genders of all ages and Zanaskari Horse for ridding. Kyang bears a reddish-brown on the back and white on the tummy and the males and females look same. Colour and thickness of the coat depends on the season. Reddish brown, short coat can be seen during the summer. Coat becomes thicker, longer and darker during the winter. Said to be as the largest of the Wild asses with an average height at the withers of 140 cm. range from 132 to 142 cm, with a body 182 to 214 cm and a tail of32 to 45 cm .Generally its weight has been found to be around 250 to 400 kilograms. At the time of August and September the weights of the Kyang is increased up to 45 kilograms. Considered close to a horse than ass due to its short ears with a massive head with powerful body has a narrow mid-dorsal strip without a whitish border. Supporting a short black-brown erect short mane and a dark strips along the back extending from nape to tail mane. Kiang. The longish tail ends in long black hair tuft. The hooves are large as in horses. It is reddish-brown on the back and white on the belly. The sexes are alike. It lives in groups of sexually separated herds. On sensing danger the herd will flee very fast. Often a male keeps watch of the herd from an elevated place and alarms the others by joining the herd. Like all wild assesses Kyang have. Kyang is an agile animal and can run long distances at a speed of more than 50 kms per hour. The body length can reach the length of 6.9 feet, weighing from 550 to 970 pounds. Males are larger than females. They have 20 inches long tail.

 

Females live in large groups that include their offspring… Young males live in smaller groups, while older males live solitary life. Males occupy territory of 0.5 to 5 square miles. Male will defend his territory from other males by using his legs (to kick) and teeth (to bite).

Life in a group ensures greater protection against predators. Kyang will position themselves in a circle, put their head down and start kicking predators with their legs. Because of that, wolves usually hunt solitary kiangs.

Mating season takes place from July to August. Males will fight with each other to prove their dominance and to get opportunity to male.

Pregnancy in females lasts one year and ends up with a single baby (foal). Females usually give birth once in two years.

Young kiangs are able to walk from the moment of birth. Scientists are not sure when kiangs reach sexual maturity, but they believe that it happens between the 3rd and 4th year (like in the closely related species).

Kiang can survive up to 20 years in the wild. Lately there has been instance to be taken note of its being pronounced in conflict with nomadic herders. Needs immediate preventive measures under the Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.

The Ass / donkey have been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years. There are more than 40 million donkey in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. When any Wild ass specie is domesticated anywhere it is called Donkey which probably it is because of its being got tamed.

Ghor Khar or Ghud Khur usually has sandy, varies from reddish grey, fawn, to pale chestnut. The animal possesses an erect, dark mane which runs from the back of the head and along the neck. The mane is then followed by a dark brown stripe running along the back, to the root of the tail. It is one of the fastest of Indian animals, with speeds clocked at about 70 – 80 km. per hour and can easily outrun a jeep. Once the Indian wild ass’s range once extended from western India, southern Pakistan provinces of Sindh and went beyond to Baluchistan, Afghanistan and south-eastern Iran. Now its last refuge lies in the Indian Wild Ass, Rann of Kutch and its surrounding areas of the Great Rann of Kutch in the Gujrat. The animal feeds on grass, leaves and fruits of plant, crop, Prosopis pods, and saline vegetation Graze between dawn and dusk.. Indian wild asses Stallions live either solitarily, or in small groups of twos and threes while family herds remain large. Mating season is in rainy season. When a mare comes into heat, she separates from the herd with a stallion that battles against rivals for her possession. After few days, the pair returns to the herd. The mare gives birth to one foal. The male foal weans away by 1–2 years of age, while the female continues to stay with the family herd. First census of the wild ass was done in 1940, when there were an estimated 3,500 wild asses. But, by the year 1960, this figure fell to just 362, it was then classified as a highly endangered species. Recently in 2015, the current census of the Indian wild ass population has increased to more than 4,800 individuals in and outside of the Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. Said never has been subjected to hunting Said to be never a hunting target of Indian Maharajas and colonial British officials of the British Raj . However, Mughal Emperors and noblemen took great pleasure in hunting it .Emperor Jahangir in his book Tuzk-e-Jahangir an illustrated copy that has survived of Akbarnama , the book of Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great there is an illustration of Akbar with several of them on an Indian wild ass shoot having been shot by him. However Kyang has no history of its ever being hunted.

(The author is a Jammu based Environmentalist)
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