Nowadays, two of the three zebra species are considered as endangered species, therefore the birth of a baby zebra is a very happy event and good news at the same time. The baby zebra is equipped with stripes to serve for camouflaging purposes and is endowed with almost immediate ability to walk and run, as well as with the teachings of survival provided by the mother.
One Foal per Year
The mating of zebras occurs yearly and once mated the gestation period takes about twelve or thirteen months, after which, usually in the rainy season, a new zebra foal is born. The newborn already has the stripes (only that they seem brown and white) and becomes very quickly strong enough (up to thirty kilos) to stand and walk. The most intense mating period for Grevy’s zebras is between August and October.
Upbringing of the Zebra Foal
The mother zebra is the first teacher for her foal, caring for him and keeping him close to her, separate from the rest of the zebras so that the baby can learn to identify her by smell, sight and sound. Using his single-toe hooves, the baby zebra is able to stand and walk in the first quarter of an hour after being born and it only takes up to one full hour until he can accompany the mother alongside the rest of the herd. These abilities are crucial for the young zebras, as their vulnerability usually draws attention of predators.
Feeding and Care
Being mammals, the zebra foal weans from their mothers up to one year at most, even if the mother zebra continues to lactate for another four months approximately. Being herbivores, zebras have a variety of items in their menus, form shrubs and leaves, to grasses and different types of herbs. The foal learns which are good to eat only by observing the mother and is able to graze on his own in a week’s time after birth. This is also how he learns the migration patterns and routes of the herd, as well as keeping an eye on potential predators.
When Does The Baby Zebra Become an Adult
When the foal is one year old he can be considered to be independent, at which time, if a male, the foal can join other groups of you male zebras. However, it is also possible for the young zebra to stay by his original herd for a few years (four at most). Sexual maturity is reached sometime between sixteen and twenty two months form birth. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is on average about fifty percent for the foals, due mainly to the wild life predators such as leopards, lions, wild dogs, hyenas, etc. If in captivity, a zebra can live with twenty to forty years more.
Getting its Stripes
The stripes on a zebra appear right from the birth, although the adult’s black stripes are rather brown on a newborn. They gradually change to black in time. It is interesting that every zebra has a unique pattern of stripes which allows them to recognize one another in the case of a mother and a foal for example, even if they are in a large herd.
The reason for the stripes being on zebras right from the start is, of course, for camouflaging purposes, due to the numerous predators present. In this instance, it’s not the color that helps camouflaging, but the pattern, because the most dangerous predators for them are color blind so they may pass or stand unspotted, especially in tall grass. The stripes are also easily confusing predators when more zebras stand together in the herd, as they are unable to identify an individual because of the intertwining patterns.