Thursday, January 17, 2013

Zebra Controversy

Much confusion reigned on 21/12/12 [SEE my blog-entry on that date] - in my case it was related to the available (or in this case non-available/confusing) information I came across during my "surfing" on the internet about the different species of zebra- instead of being confused/afraid that the world was possibly coming to an end on that day :) Today, however, I want to concentrate on how to possibly identify zebras according to their stripes (only) & the regions, where I found/photographed them. This group of (3) zebra are at home in the Addo Park in the Eastern Cape.

I photographed this (heavily pregnant) zebra mare in the Pilansberg Reserve (N-W Province). Since today I only want to concentrate on the Plains zebra (generally known as the Burchell's zebra here in SA), the distinctively wide & widely spaced stripes of this zebra subspecies are vertical on the forepart of the body, in contrast to being horizontal on the hindquarters & legs.

The horizontal stripes on the lower legs are also usually "giving way to white", whereas a very distinctive feature of the Plains zebra is the so-called (brownish/greyish) shadow-stripes especially on the rump - all clearly "demonstrated" by this zebra, which crossed a road in the Kruger National Park - hence zebra-stripes :)

When looking at this zebra mare & its foal, photographed in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve (KwaZulu-Natal), I wonder: are we looking at 1 of several subtypes/variations, as some websites on the matter "state", yet don't appear to agree about how many species truly exist/are extant OR extinct by now!!

Is this possibly a "true" Burchell's zebra (photographed in a private game reserve in the Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape region), which the information on some websites describe as "the lightest coloured" of all zebras with completely white legs? In contrast & if in fact the Burchell's is only a subtype of the Plains zebra, which some "claim" is (like the Quagga) by now extinct, shouldn't we stop generally referring to the Plains as the Burchell's zebra?

Photographed in the Etosha National Park in Namibia, this Plains/Burchell's zebra has similar whitish legs as the zebra above, but in contrast has more "pronounced" shadow-stripes. Even if it's a fact that a zebra's stripe pattern is as distinctive from one another as our fingerprints as humans are, don't the great variations (sometimes even WITHIN a specific geographical region) indicate that also, various "kinds" of the Plains zebra exist?

Since this zebra is part of a small group in Zambia bear the Victoria Falls, where it's (incorrectly) "described" as a Hartman zebra (= a Mountain, NOT Plains, zebra subspecies) it was pointed out to me by an expert that instead it's a Plains zebra subspecies. So as I did in my blog-entry on the "confusing" date - because this group of zebra is far more "heavily" striped than is usually the case - I again wonder: is this possibly a Grant's zebra, which is indeed a subspecies of the Plains zebra & which is said NOT to have shadow-stripes??

In a similar vein: are these Damara zebra - another Plains zebra subtype?? Damara zebra occur in Namibia, as these do in the Etosha Park, & like the supposedly extinct Burchell's zebra are said to have NO stripes on the legs - apart from that the shadow-stripes "fade into the brownish colour of the hind-quarters"!?

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