Zebra | African Wildlife Foundation

Its distinctive coat makes the zebra a popular target for hunters

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Zebra

Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Coats dissipate 70% of heat
  • Will migrate up to 1,800 miles for food
  • Native to over 15 African countries

Quick Facts

Scientific Name

Equus Quagga

Weight

Up to 770 lbs.

Size

3.6 – 4.8 ft. at the shoulder

Lifespan

20 years

Habitat

Grasslands and savannas

Diet

Herbivorous

Gestation

13 months

Predators

Lions, cheetahs, hyenas, hunting dogs, leopards, humans

Habitat

Where do plains zebras live?

Plains zebras have a wide range in east and southern Africa. They usually live in treeless grasslands and savanna woodlands and are absent from deserts, rainforests, and wetlands. This species’ habitat is shrinking, however, and plains zebras are now extinct in Burundi and Lesotho. 

Tags: Botswana, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Samburu, East Africa, Southern Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a plains zebra?

Also known as the common zebra, plains zebras are the most common and widespread species of zebra—even appearing on the coat of arms of Botswana. Larger than the mountain zebra, and smaller than the Grevy’s, this ungulate is horse-like but has a mane of short, erect hair, a tail with a tuft at the tip, and bears recognizable vertical stripes.  

Behavior & Diet

They travel regularly.  

Every year, hundreds of thousands of zebras gather up their young and begin the long journey from Tanzania’s Serengeti plains, north to Kenya. This annual trek to find food and water covers a distance of around 1,800 miles and exposes zebras to a myriad of dangers. River crossings leave zebras vulnerable to crocodiles, while the size of the migration itself brings lions, hyenas, and wild dogs. 

They have harems. 

Plains zebras live in small family groups called “harems.” These groups consist of one stallion, several mares, and their offspring. Harems generally remain together for months or even years, making it an incredibly stable family unit. 

They communicate. 

Plains zebras have at least 6 different vocal calls. A two-syllable call is used to alert herd members to predators while snorts indicate happiness. Zebras also use facial expressions to communicate. When greeting each other, zebras will stick their ears up and push their faces forward. When feeling threatened they will press their ears against their heads. 

They aren’t picky eaters. 

Unlike many ungulates in Africa, zebras do not require short grass to graze. Instead, they eat a wide variety of different grasses, sometimes even eating leaves and young trees. As a result, zebras can range more widely than many other species, often venturing into woodlands. Zebras are considered to be “pioneer grazers”—preparing plains for more specialized grazers who rely on short, nutritional grasses. 

Gallery
  • Video: Zebra

    Zebra Plains zebras live in small family groups called "harems." For more info: http://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/zebra
  • Plains Zebra Billy Dodson
  • Plains Zebra Billy Dodson
  • Plains Zebra Billy Dodson
Challenges

Habitat loss and competition with livestock threaten plains zebras.

Habitat loss due to human encroachment, agricultural practices, and livestock grazing remains an issue in the ongoing conservation of this species. These problems seem to be especially prevalent in the southern half of their range and account for much of recent population decline. 

Hunting for plains zebras persists.

Especially severe in the northern half of their range, over-hunting poses serious danger to zebra populations. Zebras are hunted for their meat and their distinctive skins. 

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting the plains zebra:

  • Set aside safe space for wildlife.

    AWF works with governments and communities to designate wildlife corridors—large swaths of land that zebras can use to from one park, or country, to another. Corridors link protected areas and allow wildlife to follow rains or migrate to their feeding grounds.

  • Promote sustainable livestock management.

    In Kenya, communities have improved their livelihoods through a partnership with Ol Pejeta Conservancy, financed by African Wildlife Foundation. The Linking Livestock Markets to Conservation initiative, links pastoralists to premium livestock markets and provides high prices to pastoralists who adhere to conservation criteria, thereby reducing overstocking, rangeland degradation, and resource competition for wildlife like the zebra.

Projects

Will you show the zebra your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on initiatives like habitat protection and the maintaining of key wildlife corridors. Donate to a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the continued survival of this species.

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