International Zebra Day: Namibia 'celebrates' Two Of The Three Species

31 Jan 2024

It is one of the top stars of Africa's animal world. In the cities of Europe, its main feature can be seen on every street corner. Children around the world know it by its name "Marty" from the US animated blockbuster "Madagascar". And today it is celebrated all over the world - because 31 January is International Zebra Day.

Yet it has no great reason to celebrate. Like every wild animal, the zebra is suffering from the fact that humans are increasingly cutting back its habitat. Populations have been dwindling for decades.


Burchell's (plains) zebra in Etosha. 
Photo (2014): Yathin S Krishnappa, Wikipedia


However, you have to take a closer look. Zoologists distinguish between three species of zebra: the Grévy's zebra (Equus grevyi), the Burchell's zebra (Equus quagga) and the mountain zebra (Equus zebra), of which there are two subspecies, the Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae) and the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra).


Distribution areas of the three zebra species. 
Graphic (2020): Mariomassone, Wikipedia


These three species are threatened to varying degrees. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Grévy's zebra as endangered (recent estimate: 2,250 specimen, according to Wikipedia), the plains zebra as near-threatened (recent estimate: 500,000 specimen, according to Wikipedia) and the mountain zebra as vulnerable (estimate: 35,000 specimen, according to IUCN) and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra 33,000 Cape Mountain Zebra about 2,000 specimen.

Namibia is even main home for one of the three zebra species

Namibia is home to two of the three zebra species: the Burchell's zebra and the Hartmann's mountain zebra. Their populations are considered stable or have even increased significantly over the past two decades.


Hartmann's mountain zebra in Etosha. 
Photo (2015): Yathin S Krishnappa, Wikipedia


Namibia is even the main home of the Hartmann's mountain zebra. In other words, it is considered almost endemic, i.e. it occurs almost exclusively in Namibia. It can be found in rocky areas in Etosha as well as along the Great Escarpment between the Namib and the inland plateau and in the Fish River Canyon area.

Detailed information on the two "Namibian" zebra species is provided by in its articles on Burchell's zebra and Hartmann's mountain zebra. An overview of the zebra species can be found in a very detailed article on Wikipedia.

Sven-Eric Stender

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