Mountain Zebra, Equus zebra

The mountain zebra (Equus zebra) is native to the southwestern areas of Namibia, Angola, and South Africa. It prefers a habitat within mountainous areas, woodlands, open grasslands, or areas with abundant plant life at elevations of up to 3,300 feet. The diet of this zebra consists of buds, roots, fruits, bark, and tufted grass within its small range.

The classification of the mountain zebra and its subspecies is debatable. Previously a subspecies within the subgenus Hippotigris, the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) and Hartmann’s mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannea) were reclassified as distinct species in 2004, when C.P. Groves and C. H. Bell examined the taxonomy of them. They were reclassified as Equus zebra and Equus hartmannae respectively. In 2005, Moodley and Harley studied the genetics of 295 mountain zebra individuals, finding no evidence that supports their classifications. Another contrary classification appeared in 2005 in the third edition of Mammal Species of the World where the mountain zebra was listed as a distinct species, with two subspecies being the Cape mountain zebra and Hartmann’s mountain zebra.

The mountain zebra is typical in color to all zebra species, with black and white striped fur occurring over its entire body, excluding the underbelly. These stripes can be black and white or dark brown and white in color, and no zebra shares the same markings. Its can reach an average height of up to 4.9 feet at the shoulder, with a body length ranging between 6.9 to 8.9 feet. This zebra can weigh between 450 and 820 pounds and it was found that the Cape mountain zebra species contains females that are larger than males.

The mountain zebra will form familial groups of up to several mares, one stallion, and their young. Young males will gather in bachelor groups, and often times a male from one of these groups will attempt to steal a mare from a familial group. Typically, one foal a year is born, and this foal is able to walk and suckle shortly after birth. The foal is weaned at approximately one year, after which it will leave its birth group to join a bachelor or harem group.

The mountain zebra has been given a conservation status of “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List due to threats from hunting, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and species competition. By the 1930’s, the Cape mountain zebra was nearly hunted to extinction, leaving approximately 100 individuals alive. By 1988, this number rose to 1,200 individuals, with around 542 occurring in national parks, 491 occurring in nature reserves, and 165 occurring in different reserves. Currently, the population numbers of the mountain zebra are estimated to be around 2,700 chiefly due to conservation efforts.

Image Caption: Hartmann zebra, Hobatere Private Reserve, west of Etosha National Park. Credit: Moongateclimber/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)