The photogenic plains zebra is one of Africa’s most familiar and popular large game animals and they occur in good numbers in protected areas almost all over South Africa.
They occur in small and relatively stable family groups of up to 30 animals, consisting of a dominant stallion, up to nine mares and their foals of various ages. Young stallions are kicked out of their maternal groups at about the age of three years, and then band together in bachelor groups. Larger groups, that sometimes number into the thousands, are aggregations of these family and bachelor groups. Adults are normally very protective of the foals, though stallions will often kill foals when they take over a family group from another stallion.
Plains zebra inhabits open grasslands and bushveld and avoid densely vegetated areas. They are extremely dependant on water and need to drink daily, and subsists almost exclusively on a diet of grass.
Foals are born at any time of the year, though births peak around the start of the rainy season. The foals can stand and walk within twenty minutes of birth and are suckled until about 13 months of age. Adults weigh between 220 and 340kg (stallions being only slightly heavier than adult mares) and stand up to 1.4m high at the shoulder.
Zebras are a favourite prey of lions and spotted hyenas, and foals also often fall prey to leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs. As a result, their life expectancy in the wild is usually below 20 years.