Burchell’s Zebra (Equus burchellii)

Conservation Status

Least Concern (LC)

Physical Description

Plains Zebra are medium sized and thick-bodied with relatively short legs. Like all zebra, Plains Zebra are boldly striped in black and white and no two individuals look exactly alike. They have black or dark muzzles. The natal coat of a foal is brown and white. All have vertical stripes on the forepart of the body, which travel towards the horizontal stripes on their hindquarters. The northern species of Plains Zebra have narrower and more defined striping whereas southern populations have varied but lesser amounts of striping on the under parts, the legs and the hindquarters.
Weight 175 - 385 kg
Size 2.17 to 2.46 m in length
Lifespan (wild) 9 - 25 years
Lifespan (captivity) up to 40 years

Behaviors

When threatened by predators, Burchell’s zebras emit a high-pitched alarm call. Mares protect their young foal, while stallions defend their harem with powerful kicks, pushes and by biting at predators. The striped black and white body patterns allow the zebras to blend together to look like a gray mass from a distance, making it difficult for predators to single out individuals to attack. The stripes also serve as a social function. Individual zebras can apparently recognize each other by their striping patterns.

Social and Reproduction

The plains zebra is highly social and usually forms small family groups called harems, which consist of a single stallion, several mares, and their recent offspring. The adult membership of a harem is highly stable, typically remaining together for months to years. Groups of all male “bachelors” also exist. These are stable groups of 2-15 males with an age-based hierarchy lead by a young male.

Mating System Polygamy (Polygynandry)
Breeding interval 1-3 years
Breeding season Year round
Gestation 12 months
Number of offspring 1

Habitat and Food

Habitat

Plains zebras generally prefer open grasslands, open woodlands and open scrub environments. Occasionally they can be found in a variety of habitats, including taller grasslands, heavier woodland areas, and even hilly country and mountainous regions. However they are generally absent from deserts, dense forests and permanent wetlands.

Food

The Plains zebra grazes two-thirds of the day on grass, bark, roots, stems, herbs and shrubs. They eat a variety of grasses, along with some additional browse like leaves, twigs and shoots. The plains zebra does not require (but still prefers) short grass to graze. Zebra rely on rainfall for food and water and therefore have to go on great migrations to follow the rains.

Predators

Lions, spotted hyenas, African wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards and crocodiles.

Conservation Challenges

Habitat depletion.

Naankuse Solutions

Naankuse is committed to protecting the Burchell’s zebra population of Namibia through land conservation on our protected Sanctuary grounds and our research sites of Neuras and Kanaan. Occasionally injured or orphaned zebra come into our care and undergo a rehabilitation and release process.

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Burchell’s Zebra at Naankuse sites