Zebra

Zebras wander single-file through the bush.

The Burchell's zebra is the most common zebra that you'll encounter on safari in Southern Africa.

Name:
Burchell's Zebra
Scientific Name:
Equus burchelli
Weight
313Kg (M) 302Kg (f)
Shoulder Height:
136cm (M) 134cm (F)
Mating Season:
Throughout the year

Description

Zebras are some of the most easily identifiable animals found in the Kruger National Park. They belong to the same family as horses, donkeys and wild asses but are unique in the color of their fur. They have a beautiful coat of fur comprised of a distinct pattern of white and black striped that originate in from the middle of their backs and move down to their torso. Different species of Zebra typically have a slightly different stripe pattern with slightly different shades of white and black and also different sized stripes, although no 2 Zebras have the same exact coat. Burchell's or Plains Zebras are the species found in the Kruger.

Social Organization

Zebras, like most antelope species that form herds, have all-male, mixed and all-female herds. Bachelor herds or solitary males are found living nomadic lives in seasons leading up to mating season, with no territorial behavior visible at any time of the year. These harems or male herds are led by a dominant male known by the title of stallion, and is the undisputed leader of the group until he is no longer in full health or fully fit. A change of power does not affect the rest of this group however, with the structure remaining intact and the same. This transition is surprisingly gradual and calmly done, with a bachelor shadowing the stallion for some time before taking over the reins.

Social Behavior

Zebras, like their fellow members of the horse family, make grunting noises as a form of vocal communication, while showing a great deal of their emotion and feeling through body language, and the way they stride. Defensive or offensive behavior in response to a threat is typically shown by jumping, teeth showing and the iconic hind leg standing position horses so frequently take up in western films. Their day is mostly comprised of feeding or grazing on grass and many rests during the hot hours of the day, taking shelter under the shade of the many acacia trees that can be found on any number of plains.

Reproduction

Reproduction amongst Zebras is not solely seasonal. It is sparked by the natural instincts of males and the scents females leave for them to find when first they go into heat and start ovulating. More frequent urination on a female Zebra’s part spreads her scent more vigorously than usual to attract males easier. The actual copulation is a very brief and easy process, which will leave the female pregnant. She will remain like this, with a new body growing inside of her for the next 10 to 12 months, before she finally gives birth.

Anti-Predator Behavior

Zebras, because of their large numbers in some areas, are frequently preyed upon by large predators such as lions and hyenas. Their young are especially vulnerable and are endangered by a number of other predators like cheetahs and even caracals if the watchful eye of their mother is not around. In such a situation the fowls are known to be hidden by mothers behind family members who then form a type of shield between the predator and the fowl. While this happens the stallion of the herd will attack the predator and vigorously kick using its hind legs. This is a very efficient and effective method of defense against, most notably, wild dogs and hyena species.

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