On this Part 4 of our African Journey, I share a bit of the awesomeness from this way cool and distinct animal, the Zebra.
They are closely related to horses and donkeys, and they are best known for their black and white striped body…well, this part you already knew, right? In fact, zebra stripe patterns are unique to each individual, they are as unique as fingerprints, and no two are exactly alike. Well, pretty much like us – human species.
Zebras are herbivorous and primarily eat a variety of grasses, although adding in their diet some shrubs, herbs, twigs, leaves and bark. And since that is the characteristics of their daily environment, their stripes are believed to be camouflage devices that help them to hide well in the grass, protecting from predators, well one of many benefits of their stripes…keep on reading!
There are 3 different species of Zebras, the plain, the Grevy and the cape mountain Zebras, each of the three species has its own general skin-coat pattern, but since the most well-known and the greatest in numbers is the plain zebra, I will be focusing on them here and besides, they were the ones which I had the privilege to visit close and personal during our African journey.
Similar then the other animals I shared with you, zebras are also very social, they spend time in herds and besides grassing and journeying together, they spend quality time grooming each other.
Zebras sleep standing up, and only when they are in groups that can warn them of danger. If they spot a predator, they will bark or whinny loudly to warn the others in the group. If an animal is attacked, its family will come to its defense, circling the wounded zebra and attempting to drive off predators; which in the majority of times are lions and hyenas.
Zebra’s gestational period is 12 – 13 months (see mamas out there~ 9months is a breeze!!) and the little foals are born with fuzzy coat with brown and white stripes as opposed to black and white stripes from 2 years old on.
Mares generally keep all other zebras away for 2-3 days until her foal recognizes her by sight, voice and smell.
Back to their ingenious camouflage, the stripes are typically vertical on the head, neck, forequarters, and main body, with horizontal stripes at the rear and on the legs of the animal. The patterns may make it difficult for predators to identify a single animal from a running herd and distort distance at dawn and dusk.
Here are some hypotheses on this matter: The vertical striping may help the zebra hide in the grass by disrupting its outline, they also work as motion dazzle—a group of zebras standing or moving close together may appear as one large mass of flickering stripes, making it more difficult for the lion to pick out a target, and surely if they are all together standing in backwards in Vrkasana/yoga tree pose (lol).
Another very interesting fact is that some insets are attracted to linearly polarized light, and black and white stripes disrupt the attractive pattern, so the zebras do not get too bother by some flies…I might have to wear stripes more often, especially when in South America !!!
Plus the difference on the black and white colors in relation to the absorption of light may assist the zebra to regulate their temperature on the hot Sahara desert, and also act as a kind of natural sunscreen.
Now, this fact I personally think that is especially interesting; ‘It was previously believed that zebras were white animals with black stripes, since some zebras have white underbellies. Embryological evidence, however, shows that the animal’s background color is black and the white stripes and bellies are additions’.
This comes to show that very often when a certain perception is brought to mind and heart many times what it seems like, in reality is not the truth.
So, may we all keep on learning with the gazillion messages from Nature and right now with the zebras in particular; when you feel like blending in, are you doing out of fear or community connection?; what types of camouflage are you utilizing? and are they towards your greatest good?
Thank you for reading and see you on the next leg of the life’s journey !
With a heart filled by joy ~ Lydie Om.