Zebras are one of the most common animals in Africa, roaming the length and breadth of the continent’s grasslands, and Namibia is home to two species of these large equids, Hartmann’s Zebra and Burchell’s zebra.
Hartmann’s Zebra are the larger of the two and are similar in appearance to South Africa’s Cape Mountain Zebra, except bigger. This species of zebra is hardy and adapted for rocky terrain manoeuvring, with very fast-growing hooves to make up for the extra wear and tear. In Namibia, they are resident in Etosha National Park and Naukluft National Park.
Burchell’s Zebra are most easily recognised by the light brown stripes running inside the lines of their black and white coat pattern. They occur in nature reserves throughout Namibia, wherever there is adequate grazing.
In Black and White
Trapped somewhere between a horse and a donkey, zebras are most easily recognised by the striped pattern of their coat. While black and white may not seem the best colour for camouflage in the golden savannahs, from a distance, their coat pattern blends perfectly with their surroundings. This is especially evident in the half-light of dusk and dawn, when predators are most active.
The striped pattern has the dual function of keeping the animals safe from the dreaded tsetse fly, which dislike landing on contrasting colours.
Finding the herds
It’s easy to earn your stripes for spotting zebras in Etosha National Park. This reserve has abundant populations of both Hartmann’s and Burchell’s zebra. The Hartmann’s subspecies prefers the rocky terrain in Western Etosha in the region of Dolomite camp.
Burchell’s zebra occur wherever there is grazing in Etosha and are often seen in the company of other plains species such as wildebeest. Wherever there are zebra, lions are never far behind. The big cats’ preferred meal is zebra, so keep a look out for these predators too.
It has recently come to light that Namibia’s wild zebras are involved in the world’s longest migration in their search for year-round grazing.
This journey covers a distance of 500km across Namibia and Botswana. While this migration is on a much smaller scale than that of the Serengeti, and the meandering trails of the Serengeti herds cover more ground – the distance between start and end point is much further, making Namibia’s zebras the record holders.
Wherever they roam, sightings of large herds of zebra are a comfort to the nature lover, indicating that all is right with the savannah. Go in search of the great herds on your next trip to Namibia.