My uncle who is an artisan was the first person to give me a good description of a Zebra. He used one of his Zebra Wood Carving as a model to describe the black and white stripes on the Zebra’s skin. The description was so accurate that when I later saw the live animal I could identify it easily and confidently. The Zebra’s stripes are its trade mark indeed.
Plain Zebra,Grev’s Zebra and Mountain Zebra are the three Zebra species that are known to exist. All the three species occur in Africa. The Plains Zebra are the most plentiful and can be found virtually anywhere on the Kenyan plains and other parts of East Africa while the Grevy’s Zebra are mostly found in Northern Kenya. The Plains Zebra and Grev’s Zebra of Kenya have been known to coexist in the same habitat. The Mountain Zebra have their habitat in Southern and Southwestern Africa. Zebras are herbivorous and can grow up to 900 lb (410kg) or more. Being social animal, they move in herds of different sizes.
While the black and white stripe pattern makes the Zebra spectacular, the amazing facts about the stripes go beyond the beauty. For years scientists have argued about why the zebra has distinctive black and white stripes. The theories rotate around Zebra Identity and Camouflage. This article discusses these amazing theories:
– Description: Whether the Zebra’s stripes are white on a black background, as some people say, or vice versa is academic. I leave it at that.
– Identity: At first glance Zebras in a herd might all look alike, but their stripe patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints are in humans. There are, indeed, scientific methods that can identify individual Zebras by comparing patterns, stripe widths and colour. Further proof that Zebra stripes are identity marks is provided by their behavior. For example, on rare occasions when unstriped Zebras are born, they tend to be ignored by the rest of the herd, confirming at least, that Zebra stripes are a passport to Zebra society. Also, when a foal is born, the mother keeps all other Zebras away from it for two to three days, until it learns to recognize her by sight, voice and smell.
– Camouflage: Scientists believe the Zebra’s stripes provide camouflage in the following manner:
– The vertical stripes of a Zebra will resemble tall grass, save for the colour-grass is neither black nor white. A colour blind predator, like a lion, may, therefore, not notice a Zebra standing still in tall grass. – The Zebra stripe pattern forms a discolouration that breaks up the body outline. A herd of Zebras close together may thus appear like one large animal. The advantage of all this to the Zebra is best appreciated when you consider that the main predator for the Zebra is the lion, which is colour blind. Now, in attack, the lion must first identify the target, usually a young, old or a weakened Zebra. The Lion’s eyes must then lock on the target Zebra. If, for whatever reason, the Lion is unable to achieve any of these steps, then,its stealth and ambush attack strategy is likely to be in vain.