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On a Samburu Afternoon

~ Photographed with a Canon EOS 1D X camera mounted with an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens, hand-held, Manual shooting mode.
Samburu National Reserve, Kenya on 28 April, 2014 at 3:14 pm, ISO 800, f/4, 1/8000 sec.
Grevy's Zebra in Samburu National Reserve. This was my first encounter with this species.
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thanks @Tom Kellie for rejuvenating this thread with a great shot of the stunning Grevy's zebra. 




Mother and Foal at Makgadikgadi Pans

Feb 2019 - only two years but seem like light years ago. 



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  • 1 year later...



Zebra Countenance


~ Photographed with a Canon EOS 1D X camera mounted with an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens, hand-held, Manual shooting mode.
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya on 20 August, 2014 at 11:55 am, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/500 sec.
There are occasional moments wherein photographer and subject are in direct contact.
Zebras remain a favorite game drive subject, as much as anything because of their sheer improbability.
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Selenkay Conservancy, October 2019


Heather's Africa (2348).JPG

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  • 1 year later...


@douglaswise I thought I would post a very belated reply here, to a question you asked me about zebras, in the Gorongosa topic Gorongosa aerial census and large carnivores numbers updates


On 4/24/2023 at 3:45 PM, douglaswise said:

Apropos zebras, you might be able to tell me whether the zebras that I saw in Majete and which lacked shadow stripes were ,in fact, Crawshays rather than common Burchell's.  If so, what other differences can justify them being placed a different species?



I'd meant to post a reply at the time, but I went away briefly at the end of April and ran out of time.


The first specimens of Crawshay’s Zebra were collected by a soldier, hunter named Captain Richard Crawshay on the Nyika Plateau in 1893, in what would then have been known as Nyasaland now Malawi. Crawshay after joining the African Lakes Company, in 1891 became part of the administration of Nyasaland, and went on to become a vice consul there. Crawshay’s Zebra (Equus zebra crawshayi) is found in northeast Zambia, southeastern Tanzania, Malawi and northern Mozambique, its northern boundary is the Rufiji River, I would have assumed that the Zambezi River in Mozambique would be the southern boundary, however, Gorongosa National Park is just south of the Zambezi, on the Zambezi Delta Safaris - Coutada 11 website they refer to their zebras as Selous Zebras, however, the zebras in their photos certainly look like Crawshay’s to me and they should be the same as those in Gorongosa. I don't know enough about the genetics of the different Plains Zebra subspecies, Plains Zebra taxonomy seems to be quite complicated and confused, this makes determining the correct names and establishing exactly where different subspecies occur, slightly difficult, as illustrated by Zambezi Delta Safaris calling their Coutada 11 zebras, Selous Zebras. What I can say, is that when the Gorongosa Restoration Project, began restocking the park, the easiest thing to do would have been to source Plains Zebras from South Africa, but if you compare the zebras in Kruger national park, that I believe are Burchell's Zebras to Crawshay's Zebras, the difference in appearance is very obvious, they are clearly not the same subspecies. Zebras were practically wiped out from the south of Mozambique, when Zinave National Park was restocked, zebras were taken there from Kruger NP, as the original zebras there would have been the same, I presume that zebras taken to Maputo NP would have come from KwaZulu-Natal. I've not been on safari in South Africa so I don't have any photos of zebras from Kruger or KZN.


I would assume that the zebras AP introduced to Majete would have come from Liwonde, long before AP took it on, Liwonde was also restocked, as much of the wildlife had almost gone from there, the animals taken there, including zebras came from Kasungu NP on the Zambian border, the zebras there should certainly be Crawshay's and the photos of zebras in Majete, that I've seen online, look like Crawshay's, so they would be what you saw there.


The following photos of Crawshay Zebras are all scanned slides, taken in Nyika NP in Malawi and South Luangwa in Zambia 





















Edited by inyathi
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Thanks for your reply.  It is clear from your photos that I was seeing Crawshay's while visiting Majete.  The lack of shadow stripes , as far as I was concerned, made them look brighter and more handsome than Burchell's.  That said, in other respects they looked identical to me.  The same is certainly not the case for Grevy's which look and behave differently.  The question then arises as to what criteria are necessary before subspecies status can be claimed.  One might speculate that Crawshay's differ from Burchell's only in their possession of a single recessive pair of genes which code for jacket colour.


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I said that I believe the zebras in Kruger NP are Burchell’s Zebras, but I realised afterwards that they are not, they’re Chapman’s Zebras (Equus quagga chapmani). Some of the confusion relating to zebras, comes from the fact when the naturalist explorer William John Burchell, shot some Plains Zebras, just north of the Orange River in South Africa in the early 19th century, they were mistakenly identified as being a new species of zebra, entirely distinct from the Quagga and the Mountain Zebra that were already known to scientists. Burchell delivered the specimens he’d collected, to what is now the Natural History Museum in London in 1815, the zoologist and taxonomist John Gray, named this supposedly new species Burchell’s Zebra in 1824, giving it the scientific name Asinus burchellii, the scientific name would later be changed to Equus burchellii. The view that Quagga and the Burchell’s Zebra were different species, persisted amongst some taxonomists until very recently, when DNA largely settled the matter and confirmed that they were the same species, had the Quagga not been hunted to extinction, I think there would have been less inclination to see them as different species.


The result of this confusion, is that the name Burchell’s Zebra, was long applied to the entire species, being used interchangeably with Plains Zebra or Common Zebra and thus some people still mistakenly refer to the entire species as Burchell’s Zebra, if you look online, you will see lots of zebras in Kruger National Park labelled Burchell’s Zebra.  I wasn’t wholly certain, that I was right in thinking that the zebras in Kruger are Burchell’s, I did think they might actually be Chapman’s, I should have consulted the Mammals of Africa and also the Kingdon Field Guide, they  would have confirmed that they are Chapman’s. To add to the confusion, it was thought that the so-called typical Burchell’s Zebra, once found throughout much of South Africa north of the Orange River, was like the Quagga of the Cape, extinct, the current view, is that this is not the case, that there wasn’t ever really such thing as a typical Burchell’s Zebra. The population of Burchell’s zebras, extended further north than first supposed, Plains Zebras in Namibia in Etosha are now recognised as being Burchell’s Zebras, what was considered the typical Burchell’s, had brown stripes, little striping on the rump and unstriped legs, it is now known that similar characteristics have occurred in extant populations of Burchell’s. On Wikipedia it says 



However, Groves and Bell concluded in their 2004 publication that "the extinct true Burchell's zebra" is a phantom. Careful study of the original zebra populations in Zululand and Eswatini, and of skins harvested on game farms in Zululand and Natal, has revealed that a certain small proportion shows similarity to what now is regarded as typical burchellii. The type localities of the two subspecies Equus quagga burchellii (Burchell's zebra) and Equus quagga antiquorum (Damaraland zebra) are so close to each other that they suggest that the two are in fact one, and therefore the older of the two names should take precedence over the younger. They therefore say that the correct name for the southernmost subspecies must be burchellii, not antiquorum. The subspecies Equus quagga burchellii still exists in KwaZulu-Natal and in Etosha.


As a good illustration of the confusion caused by the Plains Zebra species sometimes being referred to as Burchell’s Zebra, the Wikipedia entry for Burchell’s also says this regarding the distribution of Burchell’s




Range and adaptation


Formerly, the Burchell's zebra range was centered north of the Vaal/Orange river system, extending northwest via southern Botswana to Etosha and the Kaokoveld, and southeast to Eswatini and KwaZulu-Natal. Now extirpated in the middle portion, it survives at the northwestern and southeastern ends of the distribution.



Yet one of the photos is labelled “A pair of Burchell's zebra at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya.” well outside that range, It clearly shows Grant’s Zebras, someone obviously thought they were being helpful, adding their photo, you can very clearly see the difference between these zebras and the ones of Burchell’s in the other photos taken in Etosha.


There are of course, intergrades between the subspecies, so where one ends and another begins isn’t always very clear, the zebras in southwestern Tanzania in Katavi, are described as being an intergrade between Crawshay’s Zebra Equus quagga crawshayi and Grant’s Zebra Equus quagga boehmi, they don’t look to me very different to Crawshay’s Zebras, Kingdon refers to these zebras as Rukwa/Usangu type, the Usangu area would include at least the south of Ruaha National Park, I had assumed that the zebras I’ve seen in Ruaha are Grant’s, but I would assume that there are zebras of the Rukwa/Usangu type in the far south of the park, I have been south of the old Ruaha NP border, into the old Usangu Game Reserve, but not quite as far as where the new Usangu Expedition Camp is located, but I didn’t see that many zebras. The zebras in northern Tanzania are all Grant’s Zebras and Zebras in most of Zambia west of the Luangwa Valley are also Grant’s Zebras.


Most subspecies were identified based on morphology, before the advent of genetics, whether they are supported by genetics and what should be done, if genetic differences are found to be completely insignificant, is a debate that I would leave to scientists and conservationists. Claimed subspecies of Plains Zebras, may not differ from each other as much as Grevy’s Zebras and Plains Zebras do, they are clearly different species, based on both morphology and behaviour, yet they are not so different that they cannot hybridise and produce fertile offspring, as illustrated by a photo earlier in the topic. In the case of Grevy’s and Plains Zebras, differences in behaviour, ensure that hybridisation in the wild is very rare, it therefore doesn’t pose any real threat to the survival of Grevy’s Zebra. If in Gorongosa they had introduced a large number of Chapman’s Zebras, with so few Crawshay’s Zebras remaining, in time all the zebras in the park, would look like Chapman’s, being exactly the same species, nothing would prevent them from interbreeding. Since both claimed subspecies are extant, and the surviving zebras were identified as Crawshay’s, it still makes sense to me that they introduced Crawshay’s and did not take the easier option, of sourcing Chapman’s Zebras from SA or Zimbabwe. Ensuring that Gorongosa’s zebras are Chrawshay’s, also means that they can then at some point bring in more zebras from Coutada 11, since it is not at all far away. Also if they were following the IUCN guidelines on reintroduction, then they would have needed to ensure that any zebras they brought in were Crawshay's.


Opinions on the validity of different zebra subspecies may well change again in the future. These questions often just come down to the opinions of different scientists, the late taxonomist Colin Groves thought that the Cape Mountain Zebra and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, should be regarded as different species, that view has not become widely accepted, they are still treated as one species, in Mammals of Africa, he wrote the introductory section on the horse family, but not the actual entry for Mountain Zebras, it’s written by a different author, who mentions Groves's opinion, but clearly chose not to except it. His main expertise is primates, he recently split various African monkeys in to different species and these have I think for the most part been accepted. His next interest was ungulates and he did completely revise the world’s ungulates assisted by Peter Grubb, they co-authored the 2011 book Ungulate Taxonomy, but I don’t think their views are that widely accepted. As far as I can see he regarded all Plains Zebras as being one species, I don’t know what his views on the different subspecies were, other than his opinion that the typical Burchell's shown below was a phantom, he did write a book on Horses, Asses and Zebras in the Wild published In 1974, but it must be very out of date. Not being a scientist myself, I tend to just defer to whatever the most recent accepted opinion is. 





Burchell's Zebra Specimen Bristol Museum and Art Gallery 








Whilst I’ve not been on safari in South Africa, I realised, that I do actually have some photos of Chapman’s Zebras, taken in captivity at Marwell Zoo, and also some photos of what I presume may also be Chapman’s Zebras, taken at the Shai Hills Resource Reserve in Ghana, the zebras there certainly came from South Africa and I do also have photos of them in the wild, where they belong, looking at the distribution of Chapman’s, confirms that the zebras I’ve seen in Zimbabwe were Chapman’s. I wasn’t certain of this, because it often turns out that what I had always thought was the case, has changed, I'm fairly certain that when I first visited Namibia, the zebras in Etosha were regarded as Chapman’s, whereas they are now Burchell’s.    




Chapman's Zebras Marwell Zoo






A long way from home, Chapman's zebras in the Shai Hills Resource Reserve in Ghana




Chapman's Zebras Hwange National Park Zimbabwe







Zebras are extremely variable, I saw the following unusually marked zebras in Gonarezhou NP in Zim, so they should also be Chapman's, but they are certainly don't look like typical Chapman's or like most other Plains Zebras






All zebras in Zimbabwe are supposed to be Chapman's but the zebras in Mana Pools look to me a little more like Crawshay's, you can barely make out any shadow stripes, they certainly don't look like the Chapman's Zebras, I photographed at Marwell Zoo, the stripes are much narrower, but then the stripes on the Hwange zebras are much narrower too, maybe given that Mana is close to Mozambique, Malawi,and Zambia,  the zebras there perhaps represent intergrades between Chapman's and Crawshay's.  




Plains Zebras, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe











Plains zebras, Mpunga Mbuga, Katavi National Park, Tanzania





Common hippo and plains zebras at Paradise, Katavi National Park



Plains zebras, Katisunga, Katavi National Park




Grant's zebras, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania









Grant's zebra, Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia 







Grant's zebras, Ndarakwai Ranch, Tanzania 










Grant's Zebras in the Serengeti, Tanzania



Grant's Zebras, Nechisar National Park, Ethiopia


The zebras in Nechisar along with those in Boma NP in RoSS are the most northerly in Africa, I don't know if the Plains zebra was found further north in the past, zebras have not existed west of the Nile in Africa since prehistoric times, 




Maneless plains zebra Kidepo National Park in Uganda




The Maneless Zebra Equus quagga borensis, occurs from Kidepo up in to RoSS, so the zebras in Boma NP should be the same as these, they also occur in Western Kenya, as can be seen in the above photo, they aren't all maneless, I'm not sure if anyone knows why most of these zebras have no mane. 


I don't have any photos of Grevy's Zebras taken in the wild, so here are some taken at Marwell Zoo










The Grevy's Zebra originally occurred much further north than the Plains Zebra, in recent time as far north as Djibouti and Eritrea, but it likely occurred even further north in ancient times, as this species was known to the Romans, who referred to them by the Greek name Hippotigris, meaning horse-tiger, they were apparently used to pull chariots in the arenas, I'm not quite sure if they were ever found in Ancient Egypt, but I imagine that their range likely extended further up the Red Sea Coast, in what's now Sudan, and they may have been much more widely distributed during the African Humid Period, when areas that are now arid desert, were much wetter and greener, perhaps the Roman's were able to obtain animals from as far south as Eritrea, but it seems a little unlikely. Their empire at one point did extend down the Red Sea, but not quite as far as modern Sudan


I don't like seeing Hartmann's Mountain Zebras, grazing in a green field, but I've included these next photos, because they clearly show the dewlap on their necks and the grid iron pattern on their rumps.



Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, Marwell Zoo 






Where I much prefer to see them, in their natural habitat, in Damaraland in Namibia 











Edited by inyathi
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Excellent and super helpful post, I always get confused about Zebra subspecies. Thanks @inyathi

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  • 4 weeks later...

Taken at Mwamba Bush Camp's  'Last Waterhole' hide, Sept, 2022.


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  • 8 months later...

in my last post, I included two short stitched panoramas of a very unusual looking herd of Plains Zebras, that I saw in Gonarezhou NP in Zimbabwe back in 2013, inspired by a photo of a similar zebra posted by @AfricIanin his trip report Bounding about the Bush – Another Doug Mac adventure, I decided to have another look through the photos, I'd taken of this zebra herd and then wondered why I had only uploaded those two shots to Flickr, they were such remarkable looking animals, I thought there must be more photos, I could pick out and upload. 
















These are the most unusual Plains Zebras, that I have ever seen anywhere and what was remarkable was seeing so many unusual individuals in one herd, the unusual stripe pattern must be the result of a genetic mutation, I don't know how healthy the zebra population is in Gonarezhou, but I have to wonder if it is a sign of inbreeding, given the situation with the so-called black tigers of Similipal in India, that recently came up in this topic Similipal tigers, the high number of pseudo-melanistic tigers in that reserve is a result of inbreeding. I don't recall seeing any more zebras in Gonarezhou after finding this herd, so maybe there aren't many zebras in the park, but even so I wouldn't expect inbreeding to be as much of an issue as it is for some tiger populations. The second of my photos, shows that some of the zebras in the herd, did look just like typical Chapman's Zebras, that is what I would have expected the Plains Zebras in Gonarezhou to look like. I don't suppose that such unusual stripe patterns are necessarily huge disadvantage, it is interesting to know, that these genes are still around, that there are still zebras like this in Gonarezhou. 

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Interesting observations @inyathi, which prompted me to go through all the photos I took of Zebra in Gonarezhou and the one individual I posted was the only one with that pattern. I've got 6 sets of Zebra photos and other than the one I posted, they all have the typical Chapman's bold broad black/white stripes with probably ~30% having intermediate light brown stripes between the black. So, whilst there are still zebras like this in Gonarezhou, they don't appear to be that prevalent.

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