African Landscapes: The Animals-Zebras
One of the most beautiful African animals
African Landscapes from South Africa: Animals-The Zebra.
Visiting any Game Reserve in South Africa is likely to produce herds of these amazing, colourful animals. Even some of the smaller urban nature reserves and farms will have some feeding on them. They are often relatively tame and so can be approached easily. On a recent visit to the Mount Curie Nature Reserve where we camped on the way to Kwazulu-Natal we found a herd right in our campground and our grandkids were thrilled to be able to get so close to these beautiful animals
There are two kinds of Zebra found in South Africa, the Mountain Zebra and the Plains Zebra. In nearby Namibia a third species the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra is also found. Another species, the Quagga, became extinct in the late 19th Century and in the 1930’s the Mountain Zebra was down to less than a hundred. Thanks to conservation efforts the Mountain Zebra has made a comeback and several hundred now exist, but it is still considered endangered.
The Mountain Zebra National Park in the Eastern Cape is one place where these beautiful animals are protected and allowed to breed.. The other large game reserves in South Africa such as the Kruger National Park have large numbers of Plains Zebra. In North Africa the common species are the Grevy’s and Plains Zebra.
Zebras are one of the easiest animals to identify and have often been used in children’s stories. In the popular movie Madagascar a Zebra plays a starring role. An old Bushman legend tells the story of how a Baboon and a Zebra got involved in a fight and the Zebra, who until then had been white, fell into the fire where the smoldering branches burnt the black stripes. It has always been thought that Zebras are white with black stripes but recent scientific studies seem to indicate the opposite.
The stripes are believed to discourage the attraction of flies such as the dangerous Tsetse Fly and also to help with camouflage in the long grass. The striped effect can also confuse predators as to the number of animals and their exact location. No two Zebras are identical with there particular pattern being unique like fingerprint in humans.
Attempts have been made to domesticate these animals but have largely failed. Some have on occasions been used to pull carts or have been ridden. They have been hunted over the years for their skins that make an attractive display, and the pattern has been copied by fashion designers.
Like most animals Zebras gather together in groups normally about five or six. Such a group consists of one male and several females who are often seen grazing with other animals such as Wildebeest and Impala in a larger group. They are mainly grass eaters but will also nibble at leaves of shrubs and trees.
Zebras have excellent hearing and eye sight. The position of their ears is a good indication of the state of mind of these animals. Ears pushed forward show a sense of fright, ears tucked back indicate anger and ears in an upright position a relaxed attitude. Beware of the Zebra with his ears tucked back as he, like a horse, has a mighty kick and also a big bite.
Carruthers, V. The Wild Life of Southern Africa. Struik.