Animal of the Week: Zebras
By Sara Umbrell, Layout Director
Say hello to this week’s animal, a well-known striped savannah equine — the zebra! The first thing that comes to mind when people think of zebras is the age-old question: are they white with black stripes or black with white stripes? Actually, both are true. If you look at a zebra, the black stripes end most of the way down the legs, and then the white continues. There have, however, been zebras born that have mostly black fur on their bodies and others that have been born with all black fur and only white stripes on part of their body. A zebra’s skin underneath all the fur is indeed black, so whether they are white with black stripes or black with white stripes is up to how you look at it!
As members of the equus genus, they share many similarities to their domestic horse relatives. Zebras are herd members (except for the Grevy’s zebra), with herds consisting of mostly mares and one dominant stallion. Grevy’s zebras are a traveling species: mares go towards stallions to breed, take care of their young and then resume travel once the foal is old enough to survive on its own. Zebras exhibit a lot of parental care, and foals usually stay with the herd up until they’re about three years old.
Zebras may look similar, but there are three separate species determined by what habitat they live in. Grevy’s zebras take up residence in semi-arid grasslands, usually in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Mountain zebras can usually be found in (you guessed it) the mountains, specifically those of Namibia and Angola. Finally, plains zebras — the most common species of zebra — are located in east and southern African grasslands, and the further south you go, the further apart the individual stripes will be on the zebras found there!
As a prey animal, a zebra has to be able to run at fast speeds to avoid predators. But as a threatened species, there are some problems that these animals face. The main concerns are loss of habitat, poaching and disease, with other specific issues affecting the different zebra species. Mountain zebras are at risk from hunting and domestic cattle expansion, and Grevy’s zebras were decimated by anthrax outbreaks, drastically reducing their populations. But with conservation efforts, hopefully these guys can bounce back.