This Wildlife Wednesday, learn why the zebra has its famous black-and-white stripes, and why some zebra species are threatened.
We love them for their distinctive black-and-white pattern, but there’s a lot more to them than just a pretty coat. This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the zebra, and why it’s being threatened.
- Just like our fingerprints, every zebra’s coat is unique. However, the three different species of zebras have general similarities in their black-and-white stripes, so we can tell them apart.
- Researchers still aren’t 100 percent sure why zebras have these distinctive stripes, but one theory is that when they stand together, it can be tricky for a predator to tell where one animal stops and another begins, so they can’t easily be singled out. If you take a look at the picture above, you’ll get a general idea of how this is could happen. The stripes may also allow zebras to recognize each other.
- Zebras’ coats are also great in the hot African sun—they can dissipate up to 70 percent of heat!
- Zebras are very social creatures, and can live in herds with thousands of others. These herds are very useful, as it ensures someone’s always on the lookout for lions and hyenas. As the old saying goes, there’s safety in numbers. And if one gets injured, the rest of the group will do their best to protect it.
- Just like horses, zebras are expertly equipped with grinding teeth to eat grasses and foliage.
Why they’re threatened and how you can help
There are three species of zebras: Burchell’s (the “common” or “plains” zebra), Grevy’s, and Equus (“the mountain zebra”). Although Burchell’s zebra is relatively common, the mountain zebra is threatened and Grevy’s zebra is endangered. Reasons for this include having to compete for space and food with domestic grazing animals, habitat destruction, human disturbance at water holes, and some poorly regulated tourism.
If you’re touring the area, make sure to research the tourism company thoroughly and ensure they never veer off roads and disrupt animals. Even better, choose ecotourism.