With characteristic black and white stripes all over its body, there is arguably no animal more distinct in the wild than the zebra. Despite their abundance in the right habitat, each one of these African mammals has a pattern of stripes on their coat that is unique to every individual. It’s always a pleasure to come across zebra in the wild, and luckily for us, South African filmmaker Pieter Uys and Peace Parks Foundation’s PR Specialist in Mozambique, Nuno Francisco, are on a filming mission in Mozambique’s Maputo National Park when they spot some of these striped animals in the distance.
As the sun starts to dip lower into the sky, the golden hues of sunset begin to bathe the zebras in soft light – creating perfect conditions for filming. The Peace Parks TV mischievous duo get to work in making sure that they capture some of this magic.
Native to Africa, zebras play an important role in the ecosystem by being ‘‘pioneer grazers’’, helping to prepare the plains for more specialised grazers like wildebeest who rely on short, nutritional grasses for their survival. This is often why zebra and wildebeest can be found grazing in the same area.
There are three living species of zebra, all of which are found within Africa. The mountain zebra is native to southwestern Africa, and despite being found in many varying habitats, their preferred environment is hilly, mountainous terrain that offers a diversity of grass species. The Grévy’s zebra is found in northern Kenya and is the largest and most threatened of all three species. Last but not least is the plains zebra, the most abundant and widespread of all the species, spanning across most of southern and eastern Africa.
Although differences occur in each of the three species, their distinct black and white stripes remain present throughout. Scientists do not have any conclusive evidence as to what their exact purpose might be, but many theories centre around it being utilised as a camouflage tool, making it difficult for predators to identify a single animal when they are running in a herd. Another theory is that their coats reflect a lot of heat, vital when having to withstand the hot African sun. Like many of Africa’s species, their population is in decline due to issues such as human encroachment, bad agricultural practices and livestock grazing, which has resulted in severe habitat loss. To protect their numbers from dropping further, Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC), with support from Peace Parks Foundation, has translocated numerous herds of zebra to both Maputo and Zinave national parks. Here, effective conservation management has seen their numbers blossom, and Peace Parks continues to do all that it can to ensure that Africa’s incredible species are protected for decades to come.