Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) is the largest of the equid group, which includes horses, asses and zebras. They have a sleek coat, patterned with black and white vertical stripes that are much narrower than those of the plains zebra (Equus burchelli). The horizontal stripes on the legs travel all the way down to the hooves, and the tall, upright mane is also striped in a pattern that continues on from the neck. They also have a wide black stripe along their back which is very distinctive and is bordered by white on the rump.
There are many theories as to the function of the stripes, from camouflage to the confusing predators. However recent research has suggested, that they may play a social function such as stimulating grooming.
Grevy’s zebra can be found in northern Kenya with a small population of about 100 animals in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian animals are expected to disappear soon. However, there is conservation work being done in Kenya to help this species to survive in the wild. The Lewa reserve is one of the strongholds, with over 450 Grevy’s zebra there.
Grevy’s zebras have a more open social society than other horse species. In a herd of zebras the mature stallions will occupy territories from which they have sole access to breeding females, although other males are still tolerated within the area, provided females are not in season. The territories are patrolled and marked with dung and can be up to ten square kilometres, which are the largest of any living herbivore. Territorial males will also vocalise loudly to assert their dominance within the boundary.
Females tend to become sexually mature at around three or four years and will give birth to a single foal after about 13 months. Incredibly foals are able to stand after a mere six minutes and can run after 45 minutes.
The threats to the Grevy’s zebra include competition for grazing and water resources from local cattle, donkeys and plains zebra; high predation rates by lions and humans; and diseases such as anthrax. They were once poached heavily for their skins, however due to effective protection measures in Kenya this has declined.