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Zebra Hartmans

Zebras, with the cheeky way they trot and their mesmerising stripes, are great animals to watch and photograph.  The Cape mountain zebra, which was saved in the very nick of time from extinction in the 1930s and 1940s in an area of the mountainous Karoo now called the Mountain Zebra National Park. Its numbers have yet to rise above 2 000. Unlike the plains zebra, the Cape mountain zebra prefers the rocky uplands.

Mountain zebras are much smaller than any other kind, have a chocolate orange colour on their muzzles, a small dewlap on their necks, larger ears, narrower stripes with no shadow stripes, fully striped legs, a white belly and a fetching gridiron pattern above their tails.

DID YOU KNOW?

  1. Of all creatures in a typical zoo, zebras are the most likely to bite zookeepers.
  2. There are two species of zebra in South Africa. One is so common it is startling to find a nature reserve or park without it. The other had a brief and almost calamitous flirtation with extinction.
  3. Zebra groups are either in bachelor groups or ‘harem’ groups, led by a dominant stallion.

The reason zebras have stripes has been the subject of many theories, all of which may have an element of truth to them.

  1. The stripes confuse predators trying to cut individual animals out of a herd, says one theory.
  2. The tiny convection currents between white and black stripes keeps them cooler in summer, goes another.
  3. Because each zebra’s markings are slightly different, it is a kind of distinctive bar-code that helps foals identify their mothers, says a third.
  4. A fourth theory was the subject of a study in 2012 that showed that blood-sucking flies bite striped pelts the least. The stripes seem to reflect light in a way that confuses the flies’ eyes. It seems even tiny creatures can affect evolution.