Friday, October 16, 2009

The Color of Zebras

I never get tired of photographing zebras because of the stripped effect in the single animal or the patterns created when in groups. No two zebras are alike, when one look at a group of adult female impalas, they have the same color pattern and telling one from the other is almost impossible.

Why are they stripped? The story is that it camouflage that make them hard to be seen by predators in the tall grasslands. Lions are color blind so the pattern that they will see may blend with such background. I am sure that to other zebras, the stripes are just like the bar codes, to identify who they are.

Zebras are always nervous and react to the smallest movement or noise and in unison run away. If they were humans, all would be in Valium or other type of tranquilizer, the stress of being prey must be immense.

The story goes that zebras and wildebeests (also know as Gnus) migrate together for protection. Allegedly, the former have very keen eyesight and the later excellent hearing, so if one fails to see the predator, the other can hear them. Others stipulate that one has better noses than the other to pick the predators scents. I do not think these stories are fact. Regardless, they both end up as meals for lions, leopards, hyenas and crocodiles. These animals are too big for cheetahs although they can easily take down young ones.

Observing zebra groups is very interesting and it does not take long to realize that there is a leader. He is always looking after the group and moving around making sure that they stay together. The leader have 2 or 3 assistants to keep his harem together and these can be seen in the middle or trailing at the end making sure that none stays behind. When group members stray, the leader starts barking and if not obeyed, he chases the offender back into the group. But when there is a predator a chase, his bravado stops and he runs for his “wild ass.”

Young males spend lots of time measuring each other strengths by having chases and battles where they bite and kick each other. These practices will serve them well when
fighting for dominance over a harem. The kicks are very powerful and are a main defense against predators; if a lion gets kicked in the face and the jaw is broken, his hunting days are over.

5 comments:

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Brilliant post with excellent info and pictures.

Ken said...

What an awesome series Don Jose! Love the shot with the orange water. Blue Skies.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Rather interesting. Has few times re-read for this purpose to remember. Thanks for interesting article. Deric .

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