5 Things You Never Knew About Plains Zebras

5 Things You never Knew About Plains Zebras

Didi has been visiting Impala Wildlife Sanctuary, and to his amazement; each time he keeps learning new things about the plains zebras. Set on the shores of Lake Victoria, the park was opened in 1992. This was to provide grazing areas for hippopotami and protect herds of impala. The park provides a serene environment to unwind as you appreciate the magnificence of nature.

Interesting facts on plains zebras

While watching game in the park, Didi’s attention drifted towards the zebras. He must have been wondering whether the animals were black with white stripes or white with black stripes. On asking about the zebras, a friendly lady Ranger freely passed down the information to him. ”The animal you see there is a plains zebra, scientifically she is known as Equus burchelli” she continued, “she is commonly referred to as the plains zebra as the Equids preferred the savannah.” She explained that the plains zebras are difficult to identify from a flying plane despite their black and white stripes!

The Zebra’s taxonomy

The Ranger provided some information on the zebra’s taxonomy as summarized in the table below. She explained that this 290- 340-kilogram animal with no stripes on the lower half buttocks belongs to the class Mammalia. The name comes from the mammary glands from which her off springs lactate. The odd number of toes makes them fall in order Perissodactyla.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Perissodactyla
Family Equidae
Genus Equus
Species Burchelli

Theories behind the Stripes

There are a  few theories behind the stripes on zebras. For example, it is believed the stripes prevent flies that carry diseases from biting them. When it’s hot, their stripes form small breezes to cool their bodies. When it’s dark, the stripes heat up. The stripes create a camouflage that help the zebras escape from predators that would otherwise pounce on them.

Social and reproduction pattern

Zebras are some of the most social animals and love moving in groups known as harems. These harems have a leader (stallion), around six mares, and their young. There are times when the harems come together creating a temporary group of around 30 zebras.

Plains zebras live in a unimale-multifemale family group with infants, yearlings and two-year-old (Nunez, C. et al.). The young ones leave this group at the age of 3 years when they can have their first foal. The gestation period ranges from 361 to 390 days (Furstenburg, D. 2009).

The harem is relatively stable with the females forming strong associations and living for many years with the males. The mares are monandrous, meaning all females bond with a particular stallion. Such an association increases the female’s chances of reproduction. Through increased vigilance, the zebras are able to have more time to graze.

Plains Zebra

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These herbivores mate any time of the year, birthing one foal at time. Emerging on earth, the foal will have brown and white stripes. The interesting thing is that the foal walks 20 minutes just after being born. The mother then keeps her foal away from other zebras for 2 to 3 days till the young one recognizes her voice, smell or can see her.

Defense mechanism

Zebras have four main defense mechanisms. Incredibly great speed: Their ability to run at about 35 miles per hour along with their great stamina are wonderful blends to either outrun their predators or outlast them in a run.

The powerful legs can easily knock out predators. So powerful are the kicks that they can break the jaw of even the most powerful lion.

Herding in groups makes it difficult for predators to single them out: They greatly benefit from their senses (sight, hearing and smells) which allow them to sense approaching danger.

Have you ever slept while standing up? Well, zebras are known for assuming this position when sleeping. The reason seems to lie in the fear of getting eaten by predators. This position makes them ready to dart in case predators appear.

Stallions killing foals

Cruel as it sounds, stallions have the tendency to kill foals sired by other males. This allays his fears of the foal growing up to take his position of power within a group. Remember a harem is composed of a leader, the stallion, along with a couple of mares and their foals? Well, seems like the mares are his wives and the foals his kids. These foals are safe and protected by daddy. However, there usually comes a time when the harems form larger temporary groups for increased protection from predators. This is when the stallions target foals from other harems.

Another reason for targeting foals is a strategy to get the mother pregnant with his own foals. What happens when a stallion murders a foal, the mother’s estrus cycle is accelerated making the conditions perfect for conceiving after mating.

Conclusion

Planning a safari anywhere in East Africa may land you some awesome sights of these beautiful plains zebra. However, they are mostly found in the in the savanna woodlands. Just don’t go looking for them in deserts, permanent wetlands or rain forests.

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