Bedazzled by Cape Mountain Zebra


Don’t you love these stripes?  Like wrinkled stockings, it’s irresistible to think that the legs need pulling up.  Each zebra has it’s own unique pattern and it’s interesting to spot the individuals from their distinctive markings.  The purpose of these stripes has led to various theories – one is that is it may help regulate temperature.  Another is camouflage, and from experience these animals have a way of blending into the landscape.  The dazzle of the stripes may also make it more difficult for predators to target a single animal when grouped together in a herd.


Some years ago, there was a happy event with the birth of a zebra foal (born 19 July 2011) here at the Cape of Good Hope Reserve.  Above is a shot of Pa and the male foal; mother and another female complete the small herd.  You’ll note their distinctive face patterns and how they differ especially the stripes below their eyes.



Perhaps the female, above (December 2012) is the mother of the foal.  The lines below her eyes are cleanly and evenly spaced.

I’ve kept track of the family observing them over the last few years and through photographs can identify the individuals.   Early in winter this year the group split and recently I photographed the alpha stallion with only one female and the assume that the young male is with the other.


The stallion above, photographed on 5 September this year and the female below.  See how their face patterns match up with the early 2012 shots?


Wikipedia has the following information:

The Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) is a subspecies of mountain zebra that occurs in certain mountainous regions of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. It is the smallest of all existing zebra species and also the most geographically restricted. Although once nearly driven to extinction, the population has now been increased by several conservation methods, and is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

28 thoughts on “Bedazzled by Cape Mountain Zebra

  1. Beautiful animals and photos Liz. I can see that the distinctive markings and open habitats would be most helpful for field studies of social behavior and movement. Good to hear that they have been rescued from extinction. I’ll have to read more to find out how that was accomplished. Thanks!

  2. To me the mountain zebras are even more beautiful than their plains zebra cousins, and your photos of them are enough to make any professional wildlife photographer green with envy, Liz!

  3. Great post. I had always assumed the patterns were identical throughout the species. You have to wonder how the stripes were a selective advantage. Its a solution no other species has adopted.

    1. The saga unfolds on this small family unit as i spotted the young male hanging out with a bontebok while the other female was in the vicinity looking quite pregnant. So the story continues 🙂 There is good news this week that the species’ numbers countrywide have recovered to 5000 and are no longer listed as vulnerable on IUCN’s data.

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