Zebras are one of Africa’s most numerous species and you will find them all over Namibia, wherever there are grasslands to support them. Etosha National Park has a thriving population of these equids, with two separate species resident in the park.
Burchell’s Zebra are the more common of the two and there are about 20 000 of them in Etosha National Park.
Hartmann’s Zebra vs Burchell’s Zebra
Apart from their habitat choices, the Hartmann’s Zebra and Burchell’s Zebra are easily distinguished from one another by their coat patterns. The Burchell’s variety has a feint brown stripe running between their black stripes.
Hartmann’s Zebra also has a small dewlap under the neck which is absent in the Burchell’s Zebra.
Where to See Burchell’s Zebra in Etosha National Park
Vast herds of zebra are often seen congregating around waterholes in the early morning and late afternoon. They are usually accompanied by other plains species such as springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest.
While Hartmann’s Zebra prefer the hilly terrain of Western Etosha, Burchell’s Zebra are common throughout the park.
Adapted to Thrive
Wherever you see zebra, lions are never far behind. The zebra is the lion’s favourite prey species.
Even though they’re often on the menu, zebras continue to thrive throughout Africa. They have shrugged off man’s invasive urbanization and wild zebras are still found throughout Namibia outside of the National Parks.
Their black and white livery is an effective form of camouflage as well as a deterrent to disease-carrying Tsetse flies. The stripes also serve to confuse predators. En masse it is difficult to tell where one zebra ends and another begins, especially during a high-speed chase.
Strong grinding teeth are built for the long haul, able to continuously grind down grasses, leaves and bark that would wear out the teeth of other mammals. Strong hooves continue growing as they are worn down. While their circular shape gives the animals traction when fleeing from predators.
Their monogastric digestive tracts (single-chambered stomach) enable them to quickly draw nutrients from poor forage, with no need to stand around chewing the cud for hours.
In Etosha National Park, Burchell’s Zebra breed year-round, so there is a constant pitter-patter of tiny feet to replenish the herds. If one youngster is lost, zebra mares can conceive another one almost immediately. Their gestation period is 11 months and one foal is born at a time.
Zebra herds usually consist of several mares and one stallion. There is usually a dominant mare who keeps everyone in line, while the stallion’s role is to defend the herd from other stallions. These micro-herds often live very close together to form the mega-herds that zebras are known for.
The logic behind this is simple – larger herds mean a greater chance of individual survival as well as more eyes and ears to keep tabs on the lions.
Etosha National Park remains one of the best places to see these enormous groupings of plains game up close.