The foals arrived within hours of each other to mums Jamila and Zarrin and dad, Holmes on 4 July after year-long pregnancies.
The onager is an Asiatic wild ass and belongs to the equid family of hoofed animals, once found in abundance across the deserts of Mongolia, China and Iran. Now, they are found in just two protected areas and over the past 16 years their numbers have declined by more than 50%.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, said:
Onagers are the rarest equid species in the world and one of the rarest animals that we have here at the zoo, so we were absolutely delighted to have two foals arrive – one male and one female – during same night!
Both youngsters are doing very well and mums Jamila and Zarrin are doing a great job of nurturing and bonding with their new charges.
We hope the foals themselves will one day go on to contribute to the international breeding programme for the species, which is working to ensure there’s a sustainable population in zoos.
The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), after suffering at the hands of illegal poaching, overgrazing and disease passed on from farm animals. Research suggests that only 600 onagers remain in the wild and very few zoos in the world work with the animals due to the challenges of breeding and keeping the species.
- The species’ Latin name is Equus hemionus onager
- Once found in great numbers across the deserts of Asia from Mongolia and China to India and Iran, onagers are now found in just two protected areas and are listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCNs) red list of threatened species
- After suffering badly at the hands of illegal poaching, overgrazing and disease passed on from farm animals, there are believed to be around just 600 left in the wild and very few zoos in the world keep the species
- Chester Zoo is part of an international conservation scheme and, thanks to the success of a breeding programme is helping to prevent the beautiful animals from becoming extinct