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Grevy's Zebra

Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Genus and Species: Equus grevyi

In its habits and geographic distribution, the Grevy's zebra occupies a middle ground between asses and other zebras.

Physical Description
Big heads, large and rounded ears, and thick, erect manes make the Grevy's zebra appear more mule-like than other zebras. In fact, many experts consider Grevy's zebras to be striped asses that are not closely related to other zebras. Their coats sport dazzling narrow stripes that wrap around each other in a concentric pattern and are bisected by a black stripe running down the spine.

Grevy's zebras grow up to nine feet long, weigh up to 990 pounds, and stand up to almost five and a half feet at the shoulder. On average, males are about ten percent larger than females.

Geographic Distribution
Grevy's zebras live in northern Kenya and southern and eastern Ethiopia.

Grevy's zebra is listed as endangered on the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Animals.

Grevy's zebras inhabit semi-desert areas, including arid grasslands and dusty acacia savannas. The most suitable areas have water year-round.

Natural Diet
Grevy's zebras graze primarily on tough grasses, but they also browse on leaves, which may constitute up to 30 percent of their diet.

Grevy's zebras usually mate in August, September, and October, and bear foals during the rainy seasons. After mating, females give birth to a single foal 13 months later. Foals nurse heavily for half a year and may travel with their mothers for three years. Groups of females with young form herds of up to 200 animals.

Life Span
Grevy's zebras may live to about 20 years old; longevity in the wild is likely shorter.

Males are highly territorial, claiming prime watering and grazing areas with piles of dung called middens. They generally live alone in their territories, except when females move through during mating season. Non-territorial males travel together in groups of two to six animals. This social system differs from that of other zebras, which typically form female harems that live in one male's territory all year. During dry months, many Grevy's zebras migrate to greener mountain pastures, but males on prime territories often remain there year-round.

Fossils reveal that Grevy's zebras ranged at least to Egypt (and perhaps beyond Africa) until about 6,000 years ago. In historic times, Grevy's zebras were found in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. Due to hunting for their skins and for food, they no longer live in Somalia, and their range in Ethiopia and Kenya is reduced. The total wild population is probably fewer than 6,000 animals. Competition with domestic grazing animals, habitat destruction, and human disturbance at critical water holes contribute to their decline. Also, poorly regulated ecotourism—especially when vehicles leave roads and disturb the animals—may affect breeding in some parks. Better protection and linkages between important park areas are essential for Grevy's zebras' survival.

A Few Grevy's Zebra Neighbors:

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus): The world's fastest and most specialized cat shares some of the Grevy's zebra's strongholds.

Beisa Oryx (Oryx gazella beisa): A large, long-horned antelope with black stripes on its flanks and face.

Vulturine Guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum): A bare-headed gamebird with dazzling black, blue, and white plumes.

Fun Facts:
The Grevy's zebra is the largest wild member of the horse family.

Each zebra has its own unique set of stripes, which are as distinctive as fingerprints.

A denizen of extremely dry places, Grevy's zebras were once widespread in Africa and perhaps outside the continent. Some scientists think plains zebras (Equus burchelli) took their place after less arid savannas replaced more arid ones in many areas.

Further Reading:

Zebras, Asses and Horses: An Action Plan for the Conservation of Wild Equids, edited by P. Duncan; World Conservation Union, 1992.

The Behavior Guide to African Mammals, by Richard Despard Estes; University of California Press, 1991, pages 235 to 242.

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