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What’s black and white and one of the most beloved animals in Africa? The zebra, of course! Known for their stripes and passive demeanor, zebras are as iconic as they are mysterious. Read on for some of our favorite facts about these docile savanna-dwellers.
1. Mystery solved! Wonder no more - although foals are born with brown and white stripes, embryological evidence shows that adult zebras definitely have black skin with white stripes. Like human fingerprints and giraffe spots, zebra stripes are unique to each individual and help zebras identify one another. This coloring is also ideal for providing camouflage in the grass as well as when running with the herd.
2. The more the merrier. Inherently social animals, zebras live in herds made of multiple harems, small families made up of one stallion, multiple mares, and their young. They even groom one another, using their teeth to pull loose hairs off each other and provide a gentle back scratch. Zebras are very welcoming of other herbivores, too; wildebeest often follow along with zebra herds, sharing resources and protection.
3. Veggies with a Purpose. Zebras are herbivores who feed primarily on grass, herbs, leaves, and bark. They use their sharp front teeth to cut into the plants and their big back teeth to crunch and grind. Amazingly enough, their teeth continue growing throughout their life, but the constant constant grazing and grinding wears them down. Because they need a constant water supply, they follow their migration range follows the rain as they eat stems and old growth for sustenance, clearing the way for new growth. These grazing habits minimize insect and reptile infestation while ensuring fresh growth for the next herbivores to wander through.
4. Vulnerable but Powerful. With a plant-based diet, zebras are prey to nearly every hunter; lions, hyenas, and even Nile crocodiles hunt these friendly creatures. Because they are constantly on the defensive, zebras sleep standing up and only do so when they are in groups that can warn them of impending danger. If they sense a predator, zebras will bark or whinny loudly and use the angle of their ears to communicate with other herd members. When forced to flee, zebras run in a zig-zag pattern to avoid getting caught by a predator and will defend themselves with a powerful kick as a last resort.
5. We are their greatest threat. Although there are now over 750,000 zebras across the world, they still need our attention and protection. The African mountain zebra is vulnerable, and the Grévy’s zebra is endangered — their population has declined 50% in the last thirty years, leaving only 2,000 globally and about 300 at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Although they are hunted for their meat and hides, the greatest threats to zebras are humans who infringe on their habitats and restrict their access to water to protect their farms.
Zebras are iconic, beloved, and at risk of extinction. As they welcome all savanna friends into their herds, they are constantly defending themselves from every predator imaginable. Let’s all work together to ensure these magnificent beasts are thriving for a lifetime. You can start today by purchasing one of these prints from our collection:
Taking Flight, Lewa Series, No. 3
Grévy’s Friend, Lewa Series, No. 20