The term “a dazzle” – the collective noun for zebra leapt to mind this morning as I stopped to watch the small family cross in front of me. Okay! they’re not roaming free, but are contained here in the the nearby Cape Point Reserve. They have featured in this blog in other posts, I ‘ve met them while cycling or hiking, but today it was a morning outing by car. What a stroke of luck to find them on my route. By the way how do you like that descriptive term, a dazzle?
The Cape Mountain zebra is a separate species from the Plains zebra, Hartmann’s and Burchell’s. Their numbers dwindled right down to fewer than 80 individuals in the 1950’s due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat. Their survival is thanks to the protection by a private landowner in the Cradock area which is now the Mountain Zebra National Park. By the 1990’s the population had increased to a point where translocations to at least 25 other protected areas and game ranches took place. Today their status is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN with a population figure of about 2,800 animals.
They differ from the other zebra species and can be distinguished by their dewlap and white belly. I marvel at the way their stripes intersect and checker at the top of the spine and tail, and how the patterns space down the leg and crowd around the ankles rather like sagging socks. The last foal in this group was born in 2011, we keep hoping that another could be on the way.