December 16, 2015
A Zebra of a Different Stripe
- as seen by -Tim Lewthwaite
As a life-long horseman, I have always had an affinity for zebras and enjoy the opportunity to photograph these remarkably rugged animals.
There are three main species of zebra (plains, mountain, and Grevy’s) with several subspecies. The mountain zebras live in South Africa, Namibia, and Angola. In my travels, I have been fortunate to see both subspecies of mountain zebra: the Cape mountain zebra in South Africa and Hartmann’s mountain zebra in Namibia (above).
How can you tell the difference between a mountain zebra and a plains zebra? Perhaps the most obvious difference is the dewlap on the underside of the neck. Both subspecies of mountain zebra have them, while plains zebra do not. Mountain zebras also have white bellies and a distinctive gridiron pattern on their croup, just above the tail.
The two subspecies of mountain zebra are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The major threat to the Cape mountain zebra is hybridization. Hunting and competition from farming/livestock pose the main threat to the Hartmann’s zebra.
I took this photo in Damaraland, in the northwest of Namibia. This is a remote, wild part of the world. The animals, Hartmann’s zebra included, are not habituated to people or vehicles. On one hand, it was nice to see, but it also posed a challenge. In the wide open landscape, it was difficult to get within camera range of the animals without them moving away. I came across this herd in a small ravine between two large hills. Even then, their natural equine curiosity only held them still for a minute. I snapped a few pictures before they all turned and trotted off.