Kids and grown-ups find zebras fascinating and agree they are the most dashing of Africa’s animal kingdom A-list superstars.
Since no other animal has stripes quite like a zebra’s, it is always exciting to catch a glimpse of one.
Did you know that no two zebras share the same pattern of stripes; this is similar to how a human fingerprint is one of a kind.
But that’s beside the point.
Today, we will be learning about the age-old question: Where do zebras live?
Let’s find out here!
What Are Zebras?
Before we start answering where zebras live, let’s first talk about zebras in general.
Zebras belong to the genus Equus, which includes donkeys and horses.
Zebras, like horses, have long faces, necks, and barrel chests.
They have beautiful upright manes and a splodge of fur on their tails that is ideal for batting flies.
And like horses, they travel on their tiptoes, each lengthy leg ending in a solitary toe protected by a tough hoof.
The zebra’s distinctive coat separates it from other types of horses.
The stripes start at the neck and continue down the body before curling horizontally around the tail and lower legs.
Individual zebras can be distinguished from one another in a herd by their distinct pattern of stripes.
A foal’s stripes will be a lighter shade of brown than they will become as it matures.
What Are Zebra Stripes For?
About 150 years of discussion have gone into finding an explanation for zebras’ distinctive pattern of stripes.
It is widely believed that zebras’ stripes originated for the sole purpose of confusing biting insects.
Flying insects, especially those that spread malaria, are a particular problem in Africa.
So, the zebra’s stripes prevent the flies from landing on them and biting them.
The patterns could be compared to a special force field that protects against harm.
The stripes on a zebra’s body may confuse potential predators.
That’s why you may hear a herd of zebras referred to as a dazzle.
What a sight it would be if a massive gang of them suddenly started racing in your direction.
According to a study published in the Royal Society Open Science, there is also the idea that zebras’ stripes are a cooling medium, making them more content in the warmer climes where they are found.
Black stripes absorb more heat than white because their capillaries are more densely packed.
Zebras might be able to stay cool because of the mini-winds that generate in the spaces between their stripes.
The Kinds Of Zebras And Their Habitats
There are three different types of zebras: the Grevy zebra, the mountain zebra, and the plains zebra.
The Grevy Zebra
In 1882, the then-Emperor of Abyssinia deemed zebras so magnificent that he offered one to the French president, Jules Grevy.
This prompted the creation of the term Grevy zebra.
Grévy’s zebras seem like mules due to their broad shoulders and pointed ears.
The stripes on its rump are concentric and thin.
The underside of its tail and its nose’s border is white.
There is no hierarchy among Grevy zebras, and other males are welcome to live nearby as long as they don’t conflict with the dominant male’s reproductive efforts.
Their two strongest bonds are the mare to their young and a stallion to their territory.
The diet of a Grevy zebra consists mainly of grasses, with some browsing for additional nutrition.
You can only find them in the northern parts of Kenya and Ethiopia.
Grass, fruit, and leaves make up the bulk of their diet, and they prefer to reside in open, grassy areas and flat plains.
Likewise, they have evolved and adapted to meet the demands of their natural environment.
The long, slender legs and necks let them reach the fruits of tall trees.
Their extended teeth allow them to easily digest the stiff, dry grass that makes up their natural diet.
This allows animals like antelopes to thrive in these areas to reach the softer grass beneath.
They are classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union.
Grevy zebras used to be common in the semi-arid grasslands, and acacia savannas of present-day Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya, anywhere permanent water was present.
This is no longer the case, though.
These days, you can only find Grevy zebras in northeastern Ethiopia and northern and central Kenya.
A total of about 15,000 of them lived in Kenya in the ’70s.
Grevy zebra numbers in Ethiopia have dropped from 1,900 in the 1980s to their current low.
No specimens have been found in Somalia since 1973, leading to the widespread belief that the species has vanished completely from the country.
The Mountain Zebra
Peak activity times for mountain zebras are before sunrise and after sunset.
Mineral licks are a popular summertime destination for them.
The mountain zebra, like all zebras, is primarily a gazer.
Short, stiff manes of hair protrude from their necks, and their erect, pointed ears can grow to 8 inches.
Communal grooming and frequent dust baths are daily rituals for mountain zebras.
The stripes of the mountain zebra are midway in width compared to the other two kinds.
Its stripes converge to a dorsal stripe that culminates in a gridiron pattern on its rear, which further contains horizontal stripes.
A white patch on its underbelly and its chestnut or orange muzzle lining stand out.
The eye sockets of this species are more spherical and set farther back than those of other species.
Grasslands and the more arid slopes and plateaus of the mountains are both home to the mountain zebra.
Additionally, they are most at home in escarpment regions with a wide variety of grasses and reliable year-round water supplies.
The Mountain zebra’s unique morphological characteristics may have evolved in response to its mountainous surroundings.
Their hooves are firmer and sharper than other breeds, giving them better traction and maneuverability on uneven ground.
Their diminutive stature and stocky physique give them an advantage in ascending steep slopes and maintaining their footing.
Mountain zebras are the rarest zebra species and can only be found in South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.
Since the early 20th century, there have been severe decreases in the population of mountain zebras, so much so that they are now classified as a vulnerable species.
Nonetheless, its population has begun to stabilize because of widespread conservation efforts.
The Plains Zebra
The plains zebra is the most widely distributed equine on the planet.
They are nomadic in some areas (like the Serengeti) and stationary in others (where water is more readily available).
Zebras of the plains are herbivores that get their nourishment from grazing.
Natural habitats for these creatures may be found down the east coast of Africa, from southern Sudan and southern Ethiopia in the north to Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and the southernmost parts of the continent in the south.
The historical distribution of Plains zebras also included Burundi, Lesotho, and likely Angola.
Unfortunately, they have been wiped off in these regions.
Open savannas, grasslands, forests, and scrublands are all ideal habitat types.
Larger meadows, thicker woods, hills, and mountainous regions are less favored environments.
All six subspecies seem to stay away from humid environments, dry ones, and forest cover.
Many of them inhabit protected areas across their range.
The Plains zebra is a very hardy animal. Even in unprotected areas, they seem to be thriving.
Plains zebras are known for being trailblazers in newly colonized grassy areas.
Because they digest food in their hindgut, they may live off coarse vegetation with minimal nutritional value.
After trampling the grass, wildebeests and gazelles often move in slowly.
The biological function of removing such harder grass growth from savannas is to make way for other grazers to feast on tender growth.
Its back teeth, used for crushing food, continue to develop throughout life.
Their stripes are broader, their ears are narrower, and their bodies are more compact than Grevy’s zebras.
Shadow stripes are also present, lighter than the main stripes, and can be seen in the plains zebra’s coat.
Also, unlike Grevy’s zebras, they share a closer connection with horses.
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