June 16, 2011

The Baby Zebra

The Zebra Colt

Swahili Name:  Punda Milia
Scientific Name:            Burchell's zebra (Equus burchellii); Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi)
Size:     45 to 55 inches at the shoulder (Burchell's); 50 to 60 inches (Grevy's)
Weight: Burchell's: 485 to 550 pounds (Burchell's); 770 to 990 pounds (Grevy's)
Lifespan:           40 years in captivity
Habitat:            Woodlands to open plains
Diet:     Herbivores
Gestation:         12 months (Burchell's); 13 months (Grevy's)

Predators:         Lions, hyenas, hunting dogs, leopards, cheetahs
Zebras, horses and wild asses are all equids, long-lived animals that move quickly for their large size and have teeth built for grinding and cropping grass. Zebras have horselike bodies, but their manes are made of short, erect hair, their tails are tufted at the tip and their coats are striped.

Three species of zebra still occur in Africa, two of which are found in East Africa. The most numerous and widespread zebra species in the east is Burchell's, also known as the common or plains zebra. The other kind of zebra is Grevy's zebra, named for Jules Grevy, a president of France in the 1880s who received one zebra from Abyssinia as a gift, and now found mostly in northern Kenya. (The third zebra species, Equus zebra, is the mountain zebra, found in southern and southwestern Africa.)

Zebra's Physical Characteristics
The long-legged Grevy's zebra, the biggest of the wild equids, is taller and heavier than the Burchell's zebras, with a massive head and large ears.

Zebras have shiny coats that dissipate over 70 percent of incoming heat, and some scientists believe the stripes help the zebras withstand intense solar radiation. The black and white zebra stripes are a form of camouflage called disruptive coloration that breaks up the outline of the zebra's body. Although the zebra pattern is visible during daytime, at dawn or in the evening when the zebra predators are most active, zebras look indistinct and may confuse predators by distorting true distance where the zebras are standing.

The stripes on Grevy's zebras are more numerous and narrow than those of the plains zebra and do not extend to the belly. In all zebra species, the zebra's stripes on the forequarters form a triangular pattern; Grevy zebras s have a similar pattern on the hindquarters, while other zebras have a slanted or horizontal pattern.

Zebra Habitat
Burchell's zebras inhabit savannas, from treeless grasslands to open woodlands. Zebras and their babies sometimes occur in tens of thousands in migratory herds on the Serengeti plains also known as the zebra mgreat migration along withthe wildebeest great animal migration. Grevy's zebras are now mainly restricted to parts of northern Kenya. Although these zebras are adapted to semi-arid conditions and require less water than other zebra species, these zebras compete with domestic livestock for water and many of the zebras have suffered heavy poaching for their meat and skins.

Zebras Behavior
Zbras family groups are stable members maintaining strong bonds over many years. Mutual grooming, where zebras stand together and nibble the zebra's hair on each other's neck and back, helps develop and preserve these bonds. Zebra's Family members look out for one another if one becomes separated from the rest, the others search for it. The zebra group adjusts its traveling pace to accommodate the old and the weak.

The female zebras within a family observe a strict hierarchical system. A dominant mare always leads the zebras group, while other zebras follow her in single file, each zebras with their foals directly behind them. The lowest- ranking mare is the last in line. Although the stallion is the dominant member of the family, he operates outside the system and has no special place in the line.

Zebra's Diet
Zebras are avid grazers. Both Burchell zebras and Grevy's zebras are in constant search of green pastures. In the dry season, zebras can live on coarse, dry grass only if zebras are within a short distance (usually no farther than 20 miles away) of water holes.

Caring for the Young zebras
When a foal is born the mother zebras keeps all other zebras (even the members of her family) away from it for 2 or 3 days, until the baby zebras learns to recognize her by sight, voice and smell.

While all foals have a close association with their mothers, the male foals are also close to their fathers. They leave their group on their own accord between the ages of 1 and 4 years to join an all-male bachelor group until they are strong enough to head a family.

Zebra's Predators
Zebras are important prey for lions and hyenas, and to a lesser extent for hunting dogs, leopards and cheetahs. When a zebras family group is attacked, the zebras members form a semicircle, face the predator and watch it, ready to bite or strike should the attack continue. If one of the zebra family is injured the rest will often encircle it to protect it from further attack.

Did you know?
Romans called Grevy's zebras 'hippotigris' and trained them to pull two-wheeled carts for exhibition in circuses.
At first glance zebras in a herd might all look alike, but the zebras stripe patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints are in man. Scientists can identify individual zebras by comparing patterns, zebra's stripe the zebra's widths, the zebra's color and scars.

In the early hours of any day in January or February, as the sun appears on the horizon, the female zebra gives birth to a foal weighing thirty kilogrammes. The hour suits both mother and offspring who have time to recuperate before the sun sets. A mere quarter hour after the birth the young zebra, already able to walk, sets off with his mother to join the herd to which henceforth belong. After a few weeks the foal, guarded by his mother, begins to feed on continues to suckle until he is seven months old is weaned, this bold ‘striped pony’ will become most handsome bachelors of the African savannah

The new-born zebra is unable to recognize his mother easily by sight or scent; consequently, he can mistake any moving object, such as another zebra, a human or even a van, for his mother.

Although full of affection for his mother, this lively colt, which is no longer allowed to suckle, lashes out indignantly with his hooves as a way of saying that he is hungry.

Chance meetings between the young of different species some­times result in running competitions. Here a nest of ostriches is disturbed by a race between a young antelope and a zebra colt.
Here we see a Land Rover in an African national park that has become ‘mother’ to a panting foal which runs to keep up with it. The foal will soon get tired and stop.

A mother zebra saves her imprudent colt just in time from straying beyond the safety limits that separate him from a family of lions drowsing under a tree.

The mother grooms her foal which is unable to carry out this important task when very young. Here a zebra grooms her f’oal on the shoulders and neck.

You might also be interested with Lions in the Wild
The Great African and Indian Elephants 
The Great White Sharks 
The beautiful African Zebras along the African Savannah 

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