Kiang

Kiang

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Equus kiang
Population size
60-70 thou
Life Span
20 yrs
WEIGHT
250-300 kg
HEIGHT
132-142 cm
LENGTH
182-214 cm

The kiang is a large graceful wild ass native to the Tibetan Plateau. Its coat is a rich chestnut color, darker brown in winter and a sleek reddish-brown in late summer when the animal molts its woolly fur. The legs, underparts, end of the muzzle, and the inside of the ears are all white. There is a broad, dark chocolate-colored dorsal stripe that extends from the mane to the end of the tail, and ends in a tuft of blackish-brown hairs.

Distribution

Kiangs are found on the Tibetan Plateau, between the Himalayas in the south and the Kunlun Mountains in the north. This restricts them almost entirely to China, but they also occur across the borders in the Ladakh and Sikkim regions of India, and along the northern frontier of Nepal. Kiangs inhabit alpine meadows and steppes. They prefer relatively flat plateaus, wide valleys, and low hills, dominated by grasses, sedges, and smaller amounts of other low-lying vegetation.

Kiang habitat map

Geography

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Kiangs are generally social animals and live in family groups. They sometimes gather together in large herds, which may number several hundred individuals. However, these herds are not permanent groupings, but temporary aggregations, consisting either of young males only, or of mothers and their foals. Older males are typically solitary and defend their territory from rivals, and dominate any local groups of females. Territorial males sometimes become aggressive towards intruders, kicking and biting at them, but more commonly chase them away after a threat display that involves flattening the ears and braying. Kiangs are diurnal and spend most of the day grazing; during the periods of dry seasons, they may gather in herds and travel great distances in search of food. Other than humans kiangs have only one real predator - the Himalayan wolf. They defend themselves by forming a circle, and with their heads down, kick out violently. As a result, wolves usually attack single animals that have strayed from the group. Kiangs are generally quiet but when they feeling threatened they will make loud snort.

Diet and Nutrition

Kiangs are herbivores (graminivores) and feed on grasses and sedges. When little grass is available, such as during winter or in the more arid margins of their native habitat, they may eat shrubs, herbs, and even roots, dug from the ground.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
July-late August
PREGNANCY DURATION
7-12 months
BABY CARRYING
1 foal
INDEPENDENT AGE
1 year
FEMALE NAME
jenny, jennet
MALE NAME
jack, jackass
BABY NAME
foal, colt

Kiangs breed between late July and late August; during this time older males court reproductive females by trotting around them, and then chasing them prior to mating. After the gestation period of 7 to 12 months, females give birth to a single foal. Females are able to breed again almost immediately after birth, although births every other year are more common. Foals weigh up to 35 kg (77 lb) at birth and are able to walk within a few hours. They grow quickly and are weaned at one year of age.

Population

Population threats

The main threats to kiangs include competition with domestic livestock for grazing pastures, habitat loss due to fencing, mining, and hunting.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the kiang is 60,000-70,000 individuals most of which occur in China and include 56,500-68,500 individuals. Outside China, the population is estimated at 1,600-2,200 individuals most of which are located in India, less than 25 individuals in Pakistan, and less than 100 individuals in Nepal. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Kiangs are closely related to onagers.
  • The summer coat of the kiang is only 1.5 cm long and in the winter it grows double that length.
  • Kiangs prefer to live in open terrain because it supplies them with suitable forage and may make it easier for them to detect, and flee from, predators.
  • Kiangs are able to stay without water for several days. They do sometimes drink from waterholes but such sources of water are rare in their native habitat, and they also obtain most of their water from the plants they eat, or possibly from snow in winter.
  • Kiangs are very good swimmers. Kiangs are very good swimmers. They are able to cross rivers with ease and enjoy bathing during the hot summer days.
  • During droughts, kiangs dig huge puddles near rivers up to 50 cm deep which then provide water not only kiangs but also to other animals. Locals call these puddles "donkey wells".

References

1. Kiang on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiang
2. Kiang on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/7953/45171635

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