The Rann, of Kutch covering an area of 4954 sq. km is one of the most remarkable and unique landscapes of its kind in the world, which is considered as a transitional area between marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Kutch is home for the rarest kind of species.
Kutch region was once connected to the Arabian Sea. Geologic forces within the Earth forced the land to rise, which turned this area into a lake. Silt gradually filled it, and the area became a seasonal salt marsh. For most of the year, the eco-region appears dry. But when the monsoon rains fall from July to September they turn the area into a vast, shallow marsh. During the wet season, areas of high ground known as bets provide dry habitat for wildlife. Bets (hillocks with grassy vegetation) also house trees that provide shelter and food for the areas wildlife.
People of Kutch take pride in being the only custodians in the world of the rare Indian wild ass.
These sturdy and well-built creatures live in the salt rich Little Rann of Kutch, a shrubby wasteland in the state of Gujarat. It is said that the wild ass of Kutch are the only originals of the species, left in the world. That is the reason for giving so much importance to these fine alert, handsome, bright and sandy-coloured Kutchi beasts.
In Kutch they are now restricted to the Little Rann close to the Great Rann. It covers 1000 Sq. miles. It is a salt-impregnated plain waste, so no vegetation of any kind can grow in this area. During the monsoon, small islands are formed, scattered here and there which become hillocks in the dry seasons and are known as `bets.` On these small bets, there is a lot of grassy vegetation. Wild asses graze on these bets and on the shores of the mainland bordering the Rann.
Indian wild asses are 44" to 48" tall at shoulder while local donkeys are only 37" tall. The ass is a bi yellowish, Sandy coloured creature a short mane of a dark chestnut c and a line of the same colour extending down the back to the root of the tall lower part is white. Its shoulders, saddle and side of the rump, are light ~&z its ears are short like zebras. The domestic donkey, provides a contras is grey or dirty brown with long e. From all accounts it is evident that wild Ass never inter-breeds with domestic donkey and in fact keeps entirely aloof from them and other animals.
Generally wild Asses are found moving in herds, and sometimes seen single or in pairs. Each herd commanded by a leader who rules with great authority and a sense of responsibility for the welfare of the fellow members. In summer day-hours are spent under the trees to protect themselves from desert heat. They are said to produce a sound in between the neigh of a horse and bray of donkey, wild Asses are said to mate in August, September and October. A female separates from the troop with stallion who fights viciously with interlopers, for possession, the combatants rearing up on their hind legs using hooves and teeth.
After a few day of isolation the couples rejoin the herd. Thereafter the female actively resists advances by other stallions. Mating pairs are often disturbed by human approaches. The period of gestation is eleven months.
The herds of female accompanied by their young live apart from the males for about three months after giving birth to the Youngs. The wild Ass can run with a speed of 32/34 miles per hour. In 1946 the population of wild asses was 3000 but by 1962 the number had decreased to 870. It is possible to visit this area from Bhuj via Adeser by bus. In Adeser the forest officer should be contacted. They can organize a trip by jeep or horse cart.
More than 200 bird species live in these seasonal salt marshes. Three of these species are threatened: the lesser florican, Houbara bustard, and Dalmatian pelican. During the wet season, the marshes become pink with flamingos. This area is the home of the largest flamingo breeding colony in the world. Millions of these tall, pink birds fly here each year to nest and raise their young.
During the rainy season, you`d see a rich array of wildlife especially the pink flamingos which flock to acres of salt marsh flowering plants. Flamingos build clay nests that rise above the water. There, both parents tend the eggs. Flamingos feed while standing in shallow water. They lower their necks and tilt their heads so that their bills hang upside-down and face backward in the water. In this way they filter plankton, red and blue-green algae, insects, fish, mollusks, and small crustaceans from the water. This diet, mostly the red and blue-green algae and insects which are high in alpha and beta carotenoid pigments, is what causes the flamingo`s striking pink color.
Three-fourths of this eco-region is protected. Cattle grazing, cutting trees for fuel and commercial mining of salt all pose threats to the eco-region even those areas that are protected. People also drive across the mudflats, and their vehicles damage the fragile ecosystem. Hunting of Asiatic wild asses is also still prevalent.