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Laura: Female, born May 25, 1999 at Little Rock Zoological Gardens. She arrived at the Zoo on May 17, 2000. Laura is a Chapman’s zebra, which is a subspecies of the common zebra: Equus burchellii antiquorum.
Susie: Female, born June 20, 1999 at Little Rock Zoological Gardens. She arrived at the Zoo on May 17, 2000. Susie is also a Chapman's zebra. Susie and Laura have the same sire, so they are half-sisters.
Our zebras share an exhibit with the southern white rhino and sometimes take turns in the yard.
Plains zebras are easily recognizable by their bold pattern on black and white stripes. There are three species of zebras that are distinguishable largely by their stripe patterns. While mountain and Grevy's zebras have white bellies, plains zebras have stripes that extend to their bellies where they meet. The plains zebra's stripe pattern varies depending on what part of Africa they come from. Generally, zebras from the Northern part of Africa have more striping (bolder stripes down to their hooves) while those from the Southern parts of Africa have less striping ("shadow" stripes and white legs).
Everyone wants to know - are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes? The striped pattern of zebras comes about from a genetic process called selective pigmentation. What this means is, black is the predominant, actual color pigmentation of the zebras coat and the part of the zebras coat that does not contain pigmentation (or at least very little pigmentation) appears as the white stripes and underbelly, so they are black with white stripes!
Common zebras have a typical lifespan of 15-16 years in zoos although a few may reach their upper 20’s. Their lifespan in the wild is not known, but is likely to be shorter than in zoos.
Females achieve sexual maturity between age two and three, while males reach maturity at age four and five. A single foal is born after a gestation period lasting between 11 and 13 months. Foals can stand within 20 minutes of birth and run with the herd within an hour. Although the youngster can graze within a few weeks, nursing continues for 8-13 months.
The mare keeps all other members of the group away from the foal until both mother and young are fully imprinted on each other. If this didn't occur, the foal could imprint on any large being including other zebras, other types of animals and even humans. When danger threatens, the adults surround the youngsters for protection. Adult group members will also watch over the foals even when the mare is nearby. The family stallion is very protective and he will actively defend them when necessary.
Zebras are diurnal (active during the daytime) and crepuscular (active at twilight). They usually graze in the morning and late evening. They are highly social and the members of a group are tightly bound to each other. Family groups consist of an adult stallion and a harem made up of several mares with their young. The stallion defends his harem against predators as well as other stallions that may try to make off with one of his mares. The mares are the core of the group and have their own heirarchy. They travel lined up in order of dominance, with the matriarch of the group in the front just behind the stallion. Breeding groups are composed of non-related animals as both males and females leave their birth group when they become sexually mature.
Family groups bond together to form large herds that may number in the tens of thousands. Relationships between harems are relatively cordial and males have a ritual greeting where their ears are erect and they sniff each others' bodies, especially their necks, nostrils, flanks, and tails. These herds are migratory and follow long established routes that lead them to the best grazing. By moving almost constantly, they do not completely deplete their food source in one particular area. Zebra herds are often found in the company of other grazers including wildebeest and gazelles. This is a survival strategy for all since the more eyes keeping watch, the harder it is for a predator to approach unnoticed. There is less competiton for food among these species than you may think. The zebras graze on the older, tougher grass, while the smaller grazers nibble on the young blades of grass that the zebras expose.
Unlike animals whose color camouflages with the surroundings, zebras don't freeze in place when threatened. They depend on alertness, speed and the protection that comes from being in a large herd. When in flight zebras can gallop at 35 mph and reach 50 mph for short distances, and the blur of many striped bodies can confuse a predator. Although speed is their best defense, they are powerful animals that are capable of delivering kicks that can severely injure or even kill a predator.
Head and body length is between 6.5 and 7.5 feet (1.98-2.28 m), with an 18-22 inch (0.45-0.56 m) tail. Height at the shoulder is 3.5 to 4.5 feet (1.07-1.37 m).
A zebra typically weighs between 550-750 pounds (249.5-340.2 kg). Males are about 10 percent larger than females.
In the wild, zebras eat mainly grasses but they will also eat leaves, shoots, shrubs, buds, fruits and roots. They need to drink daily so they must risk a regular trip to a water hole. In the Zoo, they eat herbivore pellets, timothy hay, trace mineral salt bricks, and carrots as an occasional treat.
Common zebras are found throughout Africa from southern Ethiopia to central Angola and eastern South Africa.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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