Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years of work within zoos.
International Zebra Day is celebrated on the 31st January each year. We need to celebrate our Equines and make the world aware of the threats that these beautiful animals are facing in the wild.
The main problems apart from natural predators are competition for food and resources with the increasing numbers of domesticated livestock along with degradation and loss of natural habitat. There is also a decrease in available water sources. Poaching and hunting both pose an additional threat.
This from a hunter:
After shooting a ZEBRA: “I could finally lay my hands on her and admire the fantastic markings, feel the short bristled hair on her body, examine her hooves, run my fingers over the scars on her hide & inhale that horsey smell”. Sick and sad
Further threats faced to Zebras in the wild are from hybridization. There have been crosses between Cape Mountain Zebra Equus zebra zebra and the Plains Zebra Equus quagga burchelli. Also between Grevy's Zebra Equus grevyi and the Plains Zebra Equus quagga.
Plains Zebra (Equus quagga)
Sometimes seen listed in zoos are the Chapman's Zebra Equus quagga chapmani and Grants Zebra Equus quagga boehmi These are subspecies of the Plains Zebra.
The debate continues amongst taxonomists as to recognition of further subspecies.
Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra)
There are two subspecies of the Mountain Zebra, There are the Cape Mountain Zebra Equus zebra zebra and the Hartmann's Mountain Zebra Equus zebra hartmannae.
Grevy's Zebra (Equus grevyi)
The Grevy's Zebra is the most threatened of the three Zebra species. There were previously listed two subspecies but taxonomists have now removed these.
Other Equines under Threat
Kiang Equus kiang
Sometimes called the Tibetan Wild Ass it ranges on the plains of the Tibetan plateau and into northern Nepal. There are three recognized subspecies.
Onager (Asiatic Wild Ass) Equus hemionus
It ranges across much of northern Asia from Syria, Afghanistan and along the Gobi desert into Northern China. Four subspecies are recognized but taxonomists continue to debate so there may be more or less.
The Kulan Equus hemionus kulan is the largest and most recognized subspecies with several reintroductions taking place into much of its former range. There is an International studbook.
African Wild Ass Equus africanus
The subspecies the Somali Wild Ass Equus africanus is held in captivity in several collections and there is a studbook. The donkeys in Italy are supposedly descended from this subspecies.
The Nubian Wild Ass Equus africanus africanus is now presumed extinct in the wild as there have been no confirmed sightings for a number of years.
Przewalski's Horse Equus ferus przewalski
Is the ONLY WILD HORSE and is held in numerous collections and is studbook managed. Once extinct in the wild it has now been reintroduced.
The Domestic Horse Equus ferus caballus is not under any sort of threat, quite the opposite. Feral populations in the USA and Australia do untold damage to the environment. Smaller populations run free in Europe.
Interested to learn more?
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