ZEBRA: A sociable herbivore that eats fifty different species of grasses
By Chitraparna Sinha
A zebra is a sociable animal of jumpy and nervous disposition; it is seen in large herds of wildebeest, giraffe, buffaloes and antelopes.
There are four species of zebra found in Africa;
- Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchellii) – stocky build with wide black and white stripes running diagonally and lengthways on the rump and continue on to the belly and down to the hooves. The mane is upright and striped to match the neck. The tail is striped with a dark tassel.
- Cape mountain zebra – found in Namibia – endangered and very rare in number – has wider stripes than the Grevy’s zebra, particularly on its rump. The underside of the belly is white.
- Hartmann’s zebra – found in Namibia – endangered and very rare in number.
- Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) – found in Kenya – has narrow stripes set closely together. Horizontal stripes on the haunches, shoulders and legs are short and fine and extend all the way down the legs to the hooves. The underside of the stomach is white.
A brief profile of the zebra is as follows:
- A Burchell’s zebra is about 45 inches to 55 inches tall; a Grevy’s zebra is about 50 inches to 60 inches tall.
- A Burchell’s zebra weighs between 485 lb and 550 lb; a Grevy’s zebra weighs between 1,600 lb and 2,600 lb.
- Its lifespan is about 40 years in captivity.
- Its preferred habitat is woodlands and open plains.
- It is herbivorous.
- The gestation period of a Burchell’s zebra is about 12 months and that of a Grevy’s zebra is about 13 months.
- It is an easy target to the lions, hyenas, hunting dogs, cheetahs and leopards.
Generally, a zebra’s preferred habitat is woodlands and open plains. Still, a Grevy’s zebra prefers grasslands and thorny scrublands of Somalia, Ethiopia and northern Kenya and a mountain zebra prefers the high grounds of South Africa and the coastal hills of Angola and Namibia.
A zebra eats 50 different species of grasses.
Size and Lifespan
A Burchell’s zebra is about 45 inches to 55 inches tall and a Grevy’s zebra is about 50 inches to 60 inches tall. Where the weight is concerned, a Burchell’s zebra weighs between 485 lb and 550 lb and a Grevy’s zebra weighs between 1,600 lb and 2,600 lb. Its lifespan is about 40 years in captivity and about 12 to 14 years in the open.
For a male zebra, the breeding time starts when it is about 5 or 6-year old. The gestation period of a Burchell’s zebra is about 12 months and that of a Grevy’s zebra is about 13 months. When a female zebra is about 3-year old, it gives birth to its first foal. A foal is suckled for about 6 months.
Predators and Threats
A zebra is threatened by hunting and by habitat change – from ranching to types of farming.
The Grevy’s zebra and the mountain zebra are listed as endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species as their number has come down dramatically; they are also open to environmental hazards.