Weekly Photo Challenge: Together (Zebra Mare & Foal)
This week’s photo challenge is “Together.” I offer up this photo of a Burchill’s Zebra mare and colt. The colt is probably only a few weeks old, if that. Zebra colts are brown-striped, like this little guy. Like all four-legged prey, they can stand and run shortly after birth. This colt appears to be tired because it is leaning heavily on its mother. The pose you see is one that will be repeated during the colt’s entire life. Zebras pair up like this because it provides them with a 360 degree view of their surroundings, important to staying alive! So, this pose is not just affection, it’s a strategy, too, that all plains zebras employ against their primary predator, the lion (link to my photos of lions), as well as against hyenas and leopards.
These are Burchill’s Zebras (Equus burchelli), which were named after famed explorer William Burchill, who explored southern African during 1810-1815. Many of his specimens went to the British Museum. This photo was taken in the Ngorongoro Caldera (or Crater) in Tanzania, which is known for it’s red dirt and fertile savannah, home to a complete ecosystem of animals and plants. Zebras and other prey animals like to stand on the dirt roads and tracks in the game parks because they can more easily see predators trying to sneak up on them, and because there are fewer insects in the dirt than in the grasses.
There is debate about the purpose of zebra’s stripes. Some say that the stripes make it difficult for lions to discern individuals in a group. Lions and other predators typically hunt by selecting one individual and separating it from the group. You can see how that might be the case in the photo I took right into a herd of zebra, below. Another theory is that zebra’s stripes make it blend in with the grasses, making them difficult for lions to see them in the tall grass (lions are said to be color blind). One other theory is that the stripes are a ploy to confuse Tsetse flies and other flies, who don’t see the Zebras as a whole animal and will be less likely to bite them. Whatever the reason or reasons, each zebra is uniquely striped and that is one way that zebras recognize one another. It also makes them stunning to look at.
Zebras have never been successfully domesticated. Zebras are reported to have undependable personalities and tend to panic under duress. Our safari guides told us that zebras have weak backs and cannot take the weight of riders or be used as pack animals. I am glad that they can’t. because they are so wonderful to watch in the wild.
There is a debate about whether zebras are black with white stripes or white with black stripes. The prevailing thought is that they are white with black stripes because of their white bellies and inner ears. Recent research reports that embryonic zebras are black and they develop the white stripes and bellies as they develop.
Zebras are fairly big animals. They can be 5′ tall and, depending upon the subgroup, they can weigh 500-800 pounds. Zebras will defend themselves by kicking and biting. A full-grown zebra can kill a large predator with a well-placed kick! Lions and other predators will not go into a herd of zebras directly because they would risk injury or death. They will scare herds into stampedes with the hope that an individual will be injured and left behind for them to capture. I witnessed this strategy by a pride of lionesses (link to my photos of a lion pride hunting) hunting zebra.
Finally, they are just really cool looking! I had some fun with one of my herd photos, below, that reminded me of my youth, head shops and psychedelia. I’d love to see your posts for “Together.” Feel free to include a link to your post in your comments below. Have fun!
Other wonderful contributions for this photo challenge:
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