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The zebra, (Equus burchelli) occurs throughout the open savannah country of sub-Saharan Africa, represented by three species.

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The zebra, (Equus burchelli) occurs throughout the open savannah country of sub-Saharan Africa, represented by three species. Chiefly a grazer it is often found together with herds of wildebeeste.

There have been a number of theories as to why zebras use what to us is such a striking colour pattern for camouflage, and the latest is that it discourages disease-carrying insect predators--though I personally favour the one that while in motion the stripes cause a blur effect which makes it difficult for an attacking predator to accurately judge where to pounce. In reality, this theory--supported by evidence that more zebra seemed to survive lion attacks than other prey species --was already conventional wisdom back in the '80's. Once, over a quarter of a century ago, I was fortunate enough to see an okapi (Okapia johnstoni), that committee-designed ungulate of equatorial Africa, when I was travelling through what is now the Congo. It too, possessed zebra-like striped markings --but only along the hind quarters where a predator might be expected to try and grab hold.

In Zimbabwe today, while not endangered, the zebra is under threat from not only habitat loss and degradation, but also the burgeoning Chinese population who favour the skins for export and the meat, causing an escalation in poaching of the species.

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Publication:African Hunter Magazine
Geographic Code:60SUB
Date:Apr 1, 2012
Words:217
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