The 3 Zebra Species
Native to Africa, zebras are unique single-hoofed mammals that mostly live in herds. They are widespread in parts of eastern and southern Africa. The zebras' preferred habitat comprise the savannah woodlands and treeless grasslands. It's important to note that they don't live in rainforests, deserts, or wetlands, as they can be susceptible to climate change. There are three zebra species found in the wild and are distinguished by their stripes, which are completely distinct. These species include the Grevy's zebra, the mountain zebra, and the plains zebra. The most common species is the plains zebra. Please read on to learn more about the three zebra species.
The Emperor of Abyssinia presented a zebra to Jules Grevy, the then president of France, as he considered it so regal. As a result, the word Grevy zebra was coined. This zebra species is the most beautiful. Its hide has a pattern that looks like a painting. Grevy zebra enjoys an open society that tolerates other males provided they don't interrupt the breeding activities of the dominant males. These zebras have two stable relationships: the stallion's attachment to its territory and the mare's attachment to its offspring. They Grevy zebra has a shorter lifespan in the wild than in captivity. Unfortunately, the Grevy zebra is considered an endangered species.
Females usually conceive after every two years, with the births occurring at the onset of rains (May to June and November to December). The pregnant females normally segregate themselves from the rest of the herd as the delivery date approaches. The zebra's gestation period is thirteen weeks. The mother gives birth when lying down. The hooves of the young one are the first to appear, with the whole body coming out after eight minutes. The foal finally frees itself from amniotic membranes and then crawls toward its mother's head to be licked clean. This ritual is so important because they initiate the maternal bond. Foals are able to stand after six minutes and run after forty-five minutes. The average weight of a foal at the time of birth is between 80 and 125 pounds
These zebras don't have permanent herd but rather form associations that last a couple of days or weeks. Of all the living herbivores, zebras occupy the largest territory of about ten square kilometres. They use heaps of dung and piles to mark the borders of their territory.
Grevy zebras are occasional browsers and predominantly grazers. They can eat some tough grasses that other ungulates can't. You can sometimes find them grazing alongside a herd of cattle or antelopes.
Long ago, you could find Grevy zebras in acacia savannas and semi-arid grasslands where there were permanent water sources across Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. But not anymore. Today, Grevy zebras are almost exclusively found in central and northern Kenya and north-eastern Ethiopia. The population of this zebra species has decreased substantially in Kenya and Ethiopia, and is considered extinct in Somalia since it was last sighted in 1973.
The plains zebra is arguably the most geographically prevalent equine on earth. While these zebras live a sedentary lifestyle in some parts, they usually migrate in search of water in other areas like Serengeti. Plains zebras selectively feed on certain grass species. However, they are the first to enter and dominate the well-vegetated grasslands. Their hindgut digestive system means that they can survive on rough vegetation. The back teeth of these zebras grow throughout their lives due to the continuous grinding of food.
This is the most prevalent zebra species. Plains zebras are predominantly found in southern and eastern Africa. Their range includes Etosha national park in Namibia, Maasai Mara and Tsavo national parks in Kenya, Kruger national park in South Africa, and Serengeti national park in Tanzania. Plains zebras are incredibly resilient. While most of them live well in protected areas, other appear to be okay in unprotected zones. These zebras are common in game reserves. Although they are not as endangered as other species, they are already extinct in Angola, Lesotho, and Burundi.
Plains zebras are not an endangered species. Their numbers are relatively high in Maasai Mara and Serengeti national parks. But they are vulnerable to loss of habitat, hunting, and poaching like other wild animals. Plains zebras are threatened by the ever-increasing human settlements, creating the need to guard them and ensure there are no further reductions in their population.
Like the other zebra species discussed above, mountain zebra are predominantly grazers. During summer, they go for mineral licks. Mountain zebras are mostly active in the early morning hours, and from late afternoon to the sunset. Mountain zebras have long ears that reach up to eight inches. They have manes of short hair that stand from the neck. Mountain zebras normally bath every day using dust and groom each other. They have horizontal stripes on their haunches and vertical ones on the neck and torso. These zebras have four single-toed hooves.
These zebras live in herds that comprise one stallion, about five mares, and their young ones, a social structure that remains stable for several years. While females live in packs for their lifetime, the surplus males at times live in non-breeding clusters. Individual zebras sometimes form new breeding herds or take over the existing ones by displacing the dominant male.
Mountain zebras most live in grasslands, plateaus, and rugged mountainous slopes. They prefer areas with escarpments. Diverse grass types, as well as perennial water sources. Mountain zebras have hard hooves that enable them climb steep terrains. This is the least common species of zebras, and they are mostly found in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa.
The number of mountain zebra has declined considerably over the past century. But conservation efforts in recent times have seen their population stabilize.
In conclusion, zebras are native to Africa and are mostly found in the eastern and southern parts of the continent. It's common to find them along the roads in areas where they have inhabited. While there are different species of zebra, it's not easy to distinguish them for laymen. The only way to differentiate them is by looking at their stripes. A plains zebra has paler shadow stripes on the rump and its stripes extend under the belly, a mountain zebra has bolder stripes on the legs but it doesn't have shadow stripes, and a grevy's zebra has narrow stripes.