Did you know that the fascinating pattern of stripes, the characteristic trait of mountain zebras - is, in fact, the nature's way of camouflaging this animal and confusing its predators.
The mountain zebra is a species of zebra found on the continent of Africa. It belongs to the equidae family of animals, which also comprises horses and donkeys. As with several other animals on the continent, even this zebra is enlisted as 'Vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra)
It has 2 subspecies, the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra), found in the provinces of Western Cape and Eastern Cape in South Africa, and the Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae), found in Namibia and Angola.
Like other zebras, it sports white and black stripes all over its body except for the stomach.
Like no two human beings can have the same fingerprints, no two zebras can have an identical pattern of stripes.
In Cape species, the black stripes are thick and the white inter-spacing is thinner. In the Hartmann's species, it is the other way round.
The smallest species of zebra, the mountain zebra can grow up to the height of 3 - 4 feet and length of 2.2 meters.
A full-grown individual can weigh approximately between 500 to 800 lbs. In the Cape mountain species, the females are larger in size than the males.
The average lifespan of this species of zebra is 25 years. While mares attain sexual maturity after two years from birth, stallions have to wait up to six years to become sexually matured.
The mare gives birth to a foal after the gestation period of 12 months. The offspring is able to stand, walk, and even run shortly after its birth.
After the ten month weaning period, males leave the group and lead an independent life or join a group of males.
As their name suggests, they prefer dry and mountainous habitat. They are even found in mountainous areas as high as 2000 meters above the sea level.
Their hard, pointed hooves make them very good mountain climbers, using which they can easily make it to high-altitude areas.
Mountain zebras can run at an average speed of 40 miles per hour.
The diet of this diurnal animal consists of leaves, barks, fruits, roots, grass, etc. These zebras can easily digest the tip of coarse grass, which the other herbivores find difficult to digest.
They require a high intake of water daily. They can dig into the ground with their pointed hooves to obtain water.
When there is scarcity of food and water, they migrate in search of the same. Though, they are only seen in groups of 4 or 5, a herd of 100 to 200 zebras is a common sight near waterholes, especially during periods of water scarcity.
They usually don't gather in large herds. Instead, they have small families consisting of a stallion (male) and few mares (females) with their offspring.
Like horses, zebras sleep in a standing position. One member of the family stands guard, while the others sleep, to look out for hungry predators.
Carnivores, like lions and hyenas, are the major predators of this species.
The two subspecies of the mountain zebra are not known to crossbreed, as their territories do not overlap.
Initially, mountain zebras were found across the entire length of the mountain range running parallel to the western coast of Africa, but large-scale hunting and loss of habitat has pushed them onto the verge of extinction. Some serious steps need to be taken to ensure that this endangered animal doesn't become extinct.