You only find the striking patterns of the Grévy's zebra in Kenya and Ethiopia these days. This species was once found in Ancient Egypt at the time of the Roman Empire, which goes to show that they were once prevalent in Northern Africa. Strict conservation measures protect the last surviving animals of today.
What you should know about zebras
It is hard to believe, but the world's largest equine animals are actually not horses, but zebras. They belong to the order of the Perissodactyla and are especially popular with us humans because of their distinctive black and white striping of their fur. You can differentiate between three species, the Grévy's zebra, whose home is the semi-deserts of East African, the plains zebra and the mountain zebra, native to Namibia and South Africa.
The last of their kind
The number of wild populations of Grévy's zebras has been on a dramatic decline since the 1970s. There is only a small total population of around 2,000 in the wild today. Formerly they were hunted for their fur, which is popular for wall decoration and carpets, and as a result were almost wiped out, yet these days they compete with the human population and their cattle for water and habitat. In the meantime, stringent conservation measures ensure the survival of the last remaining wild Grevy's zebras in Africa.
The Grevy's zebras are capable of roaming huge grass and bushland territories of up to 10,000 km² to avoid seasonal droughts. While some of the male Grévy's zebras try to build up their own territory near a water source and to subsequently defend it, mares roam across the land together with their foals or in loose groups. They only mate with the strongest stallion who is capable of commanding and defending their own large and conveniently located territory.
Zebra stripes – none are alike
The Grevy's zebra has a very narrow black and white striping of the fur in comparison to other species of zebra. The pattern here is as unique to each animal as finger prints are to us humans – no two patterns of fur are identical across the species. The striping really does act as the perfect invisibility cloak in the wild because it disbands the body contours of the zebra from long distances in shimmering heat.
Is it true, that ...?
The Grevy's zebra previously had a different name. It was called the 'tiger horse' in the Greco-Roman times. The new name dates back to 1882 when the Emperor of Ethiopia presented the former French President Jules Grévy with a specimen. Even though the animal didn't survive the long journey, it was stuffed and put on display in the Paris Museum of Natural History and rendered great services to zoology.
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