PLAINS ZEBRA

Zebra

PLAINS ZEBRA

DIET: Herbivore

STATUS IN THE WILD: Near Threatened

RANGE: Southeastern Africa

PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS

Black and white stripes make the zebra one of the most recognizable animals in the world. The plains zebra, also known as the common zebra, is the most abundant of three species of zebra, inhabiting the grasslands of eastern and southern Africa. The other two species are Grèvy’s zebras and mountain zebras.

Plains zebras tend to be the smaller of the zebra species and also have a different stripe pattern than Grèvy’s. They have broad stripes that run horizontally towards the back and vertically towards the front, meeting in a triangle in the middle of their bodies. They also have a stripe that runs down the center of their backs onto the tail. Finally, plains zebras have underbelly stripes. Although all plains zebras share these similarities in stripe patterns, no two zebras have exactly the same pattern.

LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION

Plains zebras are social animals. They live in small family groups consisting of a male (called a stallion), several females, and their young. These small groups may combine with others to create huge herds with thousands of members. Family members remain close within the herd despite its massive size. Every eye in the herd is alert to danger. If any member is attacked, its family will circle the wounded zebra and attempt to drive off predators using their strength in numbers.

Zebra rely on rainfall for food and water and, therefore, have to go on great migrations to follow the rains. The zebra will migrate up to seven hundred miles for food.

In the wild, mares reach sexual maturity between two to four years old. Males are able to compete for mares after they reach about four years of age. When gathering females for breeding, rival stallions compete fiercely by pushing, kicking and biting each other. Once a male establishes a harem, ownership of that harem is rarely disputed unless he is unfit or sick. The gestation period of a zebra is about twelve to thirteen months (365 to 390 days).

Since a mare may come into estrus (ready for breeding) within days of giving birth, she can conceive almost yearly. The female gives birth to usually one foal at a time, and twins are rare. At birth, a foal weighs about seventy pounds. The foal can stand almost immediately and run within a day. Although a foal may graze within a week of birth, they continue to suckle for up to sixteen months.

RANGE

The plains zebra is the most widespread and abundant equine species on Earth despite being driven away from many parts of its range. It occupies portions of the total range, which extends from southern Sudan and Ethiopia to the south along eastern Africa, as far as Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi; before spreading into most southern African countries.

HABITAT

They are primarily, but not necessarily, found in the treeless grasslands in both tropical and temperate regions. These animals normally avoid permanent wetlands, desert regions, and dense rainforests, and will seldom stray more than 30 kilometers from a water source.

DIET

The plains zebra grazes two-thirds of the day on red oat grass, bark, roots, and stems. They will also eat a variety of grasses, along with some additional browse-like leaves and twigs. To keep up with the frequent grinding of their food, zebra’s back teeth continue to grow throughout their lives.

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