Meet Diligence (m), born June 1st, 2002
Species: Equus quagga (plains zebra)
Subspecies: Equus quagga boehmi
Diligence, our iconic smiling zebra, has put plenty of smiles on guests at Out of Africa Wildlife Park with those big, eager teeth of his. He’s rather clever too. With a knack for opening vehicle doors with his mouth, he is a must-see while touring the Serengeti preserve. That infectious smile will tell you just how much this stallion loves his zebra snacks. Diligence has sired many babies here at the park. He is very protective of the heard, ensuring all in his care are safe. He will walk ahead of or behind the heard, keeping a watchful eye out. As zebras go, Diligence is a true gentleman.
The Grant’s zebra is one of the six subspecies of the plains zebra. They live in eastern and southern Africa sustained by the grasslands and savannas and even some woodlands. The word savanna comes from the 16th-century word zavanna, which means “treeless plain.” However, today the term is used to describe a more varied habitat made up of a continuous carpet of grasses interrupted by scattered shrubs and trees.
The Grant’s zebra is the smallest of six subspecies of the plains zebra. Even still, they weigh between 485 and 700 pounds, with a shoulder height of 4 to 4 ½ ft. The males on average are 10% larger than their female counterparts. Zebras have excellent eyesight and hearing, and can run up to 40 mph. It is believed that they can see in color. The female zebra, or mare, spends most of its life either pregnant or raising foals.
Gestation is 12 to 13 months. A foal will weigh 70 pounds at birth, and suckle up until 16 months of age. A juvenile’s mortality rate is 50% in the wild. Zebra foals are dark brown and white at birth. They can walk just 20 minutes after they are born and can run after an hour! This is important since the mare needs to move with the herd to find food and water. She cannot leave the foal behind, so it must be up and running quickly in order to stay with the family. The females have 2 to 9 estrus periods every 19 to 33 days. Puberty is reached at the age of 4. Young zebras will follow anything that moves, so mothers are very protective. The male is responsible for guiding the family, or harem, to water. Zebra live 20 to 30 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.
Zebras do not form permanent herds but rather loosely associated groups of several hundred families. They are social animals, usually living in small groups with one stallion, a few mares, and their offspring. Territories held by male zebras are amongst the largest known for herbivores. The lead male of the group, or stallion, stays at the rear of the harem to defend against predators such as lions or hyenas. Stallions mark their territory with urine and dung. They communicate through facial expressions and sounds, such as loud braying or barking, and soft snorting or shuffling. They also groom one another, although it may appear as biting. Because they spend so much time chewing, their teeth grow all of their lives to counteract wearing down.
Zebras feed almost entirely on grasses but may occasionally eat shrubs, herbs, twigs, leaves and bark. Their digestive systems allow them to subsist on diets of lower nutritional quality than that necessary for other herbivores.
- Zebras are equids, members of the horse family.
- To answer the age-old question, zebras are black with white stripes. They have black skin under their hair. Foals are light brown and white at birth.
- Zebra foals can walk just 20 minutes after they are born and run after an hour to stay with the herd.
- When in a group, the stripes make it difficult for a predator to pick out an individual zebra.
- The further south you go, the farther apart the stripes are. Each zebra has a unique stripe pattern, just like human fingerprints.
- Zebras can run up to 40 mph and have great stamina for outrunning a predator in a chase.
- The powerful kick of a zebra can cause serious injury to a predator.
- Zebras take dust or mud baths to get clean. They shake the dirt off to get rid of loose hair and flaky skin. What’s left protects them from sun, wind, and insects.
- Zebras have their own “smile,” a bare-teethed grimace that serves as a greeting and helps prevent aggression.
Ecology and Conservation:
There are more Grant’s zebras in the wild than any other species or subspecies of zebras. Unlike Grevy and mountain zebras, they are not endangered. However, recent civil wars and political conflicts in the African countries near their habitats have caused regional extinction. Zebra are also killed for their coats or to eliminate competition with domestic livestock.