What could two Japanese experts of animal behaviour possibly be looking for on a remote island in the Rann of Kutch?
A hybrid donkey conceived by a donkey from a wild ass is the subject of study for sisters Dr Rikako Kimura and Rikako Nagai. The unique progeny, left behind by the Maldharis on Medak, is hardier than your usual donkey and therefore, much more expensive.
The sisters vouched for the donkey as a distinct hybrid species at the donkey fair which began at Vautha on Tuesday. ‘‘The female donkeys are left by the Maldharis on the island of Plaswa village in the Rann of Kutch for about three months during the monsoon. Here, the wild ass, a protected species, breed with the female donkeys leading to the birth of hybrid donkey taller than the mother and wilder than the father,’’ said Kimura, a visiting researcher at the Equine Museum of Japan over the past two decades. Their study has also shown that these offspring, being more robust, can carry about 1,200 kg of load and are three times faster than the ordinary donkey. No wonder that they cost at least Rs 30,000, many times the price of an ‘‘ordinary’’ donkey.
The sisters also checked out the donkeys which arrived from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat for the fair. ‘‘All of them have a distinct element in them and we want to write four books on the wild ass and hybrid donkeys in Japanese so that people in Japan get a chance to know about an animal which has been ignored in India,’’ said Kimura.
The duo’s study — Evaluation of Production System of the Hybrid Donkey in Gujarat — is partly funded by Toyota Motors, Japan. ‘‘It is a sustainable system and if encouraged, the hybrids will fetch a higher price for dealers who come for the Vautha annual donkey fair,’’ says Dhanraj Malik of Desert Coursers Camp, Zainabad.
Malik said: ‘‘We have requested the Central Forestry Department to permit us to conduct blood and semen tests of the wild ass and the hybrid donkeys to evaluate their genes. We are waiting for the go ahead.’’
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