Definitions

Mountain Zebra

Mountain Zebra

The Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra) is traditionally considered to be a species of zebra, native to South-western Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Two subspecies, the Cape Mountain Zebra and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra can be distinguished. However, some suggest that the two subspecies show strong differences and should be treated as two distinct species.

Appearance

Like all zebras, it is boldly striped in black and white and no two individuals look exactly alike. The stripe can be black and white or dark brown and white. Their stripes cover their whole bodies except for their bellies. The Mountain zebra also has a dewlap.

Adult mountain zebras have a body length of 2.2m (7.2ft). Shoulder height ranges from 1-1.4 m (3-4 ft.) They typically weigh between 240 and 372 kg. (528 to 818.4 lbs) Groves and Bell found that the Cape mountain zebra exhibits sexual dimorphism, with larger females than males, while the Hartmann's mountain zebra does not. The black stripes of Hartmann's mountain zebra are thin with much wider white interspaces, while this is the opposite in Cape mountain zebra.

Ecology

Mountain zebras live in dry, stony, mountainous and hilly habitats. They prefer slopes and plateaus and can be found as high as 2,000 meters above sea level, although they do migrate lower in the winter season. Their diet consists of tufted grass, bark, leaves, buds, fruit and roots. They often dig for ground water.

The Cape mountain zebra and the Hartmann's mountain zebra are now allopatric, meaning that their present ranges are nonoverlapping. They are therefore unable to crossbreed. This is a result of their extermination by hunting in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Historically Mountain zebras could be found across the entire length of the mountainous escarpment that runs along the west coast of southern Africa as well as in the fold mountain region in southern South Africa.

Lifecycle

The Mountain zebras form small family groups consisting of a single stallion, one, two, or several mares, and their recent offspring. Bachelor males live in separate groups and attempt to abduct young mares and are opposed by the stallion. Mountain zebra groups do not aggregate into herds like Plains zebras.

Mares may give birth to one foal every twelve months.She nurses the foal for up to a year. Like horses, zebras are able to stand, walk and suckle shortly after they're born. Hartmann’s Mountain zebra mothers will force their male young out of the group when a new sibling is born. Male offspring of the Cape Mountain zebra, on the other hand, have to fight their way out of the group to leave and join bachelor groups.

Taxonomy

In 2004, C.P. Groves and C.H. Bell investigated the taxonomy of the zebras (genus Equus, subgenus Hippotigris). They concluded that the Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra) and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra hartmannea) are totally distinct, and suggested that the two subspecies would be better classified as separate species, Equus zebra and Equus hartmannae.

However, in a comprehensive genetic study which included 295 mountain zebra specimens, Moodley and Harley (2005) found no genetic evidence to regard the two mountain zebra forms as anything more than different populations. They concluded that the Cape Mountain Zebra and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra should remain as subspecies.

The third edition of Mammal Species of the World (2005) lists the Mountain zebra as a single species (Equus zebra) with two subspecies.

Conservation

The species is listed as Endangered. The Cape Mountain zebra was hunted to near extinction with less than 100 individuals by the 1930s. However the population has increased to about 700 due to conservation efforts. Both Mountain zebra subspecies are currently protected in national parks but are still endangered. There is a European zoo's Endangered Species Programme for this zebra as well as co-operative management of zoo populations worldwide.

See also

References

  • Duncan, P. (ed.). 1992. Zebras, Asses, and Horses: an Action Plan for the Conservation of Wild Equids. IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  • Moelman, P.D. 2002. Equids. Zebras, Assess and Horses. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. (http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/pubs/sscaps.htm#Equids2002)
  • Animal Diversity Web Equus zebra
  • IUCN Red List Profile

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