Situated in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, the Wild Ass Sanctuary is the only place on earth where Indian wild asses still roam free. Located 130 km from Ahmedabad, Wild Ass Sanctuary is the largest wildlife sanctuary in the country spread over an area of 4954 sq km. Locally known as ghudkar or khur, the Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur) is a subspecies of the onager. The Indian wild ass is different from African wild ass species. The Indian wild ass’s habitat once extended from western India, Sindh, Baluchistan, Afghanistan, and south-eastern Iran. Today, the Wild Ass Sanctuary and surrounding areas in Gujarat is its last refuge. The Indian Wild Ass prefers deserts (rann), arid grasslands and shrublands.
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Established in 1972, the Wild Ass Sanctuary came under the Wildlife Protection Act a year later. The sanctuary has three entry points – Bajana, Aadeshwar and Jinjhwada. Bajana is the most easily accessible point of the three. The sanctuary is also home to over 280 other animals. Chinkara, hedgehog, fox, desert cats, jackal, jungle cats, wolf, blue bulls etc. can be seen easily in the park. Over 12 species of snakes and crocodiles can also be spotted in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is a treat for bird watchers as well. The sanctuary is home to birds like sand grouse, coursers, plovers, chats, warblers, babblers, shrikes, etc. Bustard and falcons are the most popular avian attractions in the sanctuary. Around 75,000 birds nest in the sanctuary every year. Grasslands called baits make up for most of the flora in the sanctuary. The sanctuary also has several human inhabitations. The community called Agarias form the major chunk of the population. Agarias eke out a living by working in the salt pans. The area in and around the sanctuary has one of the largest salt pans in India. The sanctuary and the surrounding areas are among the venue of the most important cultural event of Rann of Kutch, Rannotsav. The colorful celebrations are a major tourist attraction.
Wild Ass Sanctuary is generally a one-day destination. However, those who wish to explore the sanctuary can stay with the Rabari and Bharwad tribes. No other accommodation option is available within the park. However, certain tour organizers arrange for tented camps. Those who choose to visit the sanctuary as a one-day trip prefer staying at the government rest houses in Dhrangadhra (16 km) or at Ahmedabad (130 km), which offers a plethora of options to stay.
There are no eating options within the sanctuary. Stay at Rabari and Bharwad community homestays includes meals. If you plan to visit the sanctuary just for a day, do not forget to carry food hampers and adequate amount of water. Just outside the park, one can find a few restaurants serving basic meal. Restaurants generally serve only vegetarian delicacies.
Summers are extremely hot. A visit to the sanctuary is best avoided during peak summer and monsoon. Post monsoon, the sanctuary is replenished with water and the animals can be spotted easily. November-March is the best time to visit Wild Ass Sanctuary.
Image: Asim Patel/Wikimedia Commons
BEST TIME TO VISIT KUTCH
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Kutch is as given below. The best time to visit Kutch is also specified.