Mokala’s Pale Zebras

When the last Quagga mare died in Amsterdam Zoo in 1883, it was thought that this uniquely South African species of zebra was hunted into extinction, never to be seen again. Where once thousands of Quaggas, with their striped forequarters and brown backs and buttocks roamed the Karoo their distinct “kwa-ha-ha” calls would never be heard again. Over a century later however it was realised, through DNA analysis, that the Quagga was a localised race of the still extant Plains Zebra, and the Quagga Project came into being to try and bring them back through selective breeding. With each subsequent generation showing more and more Quagga-like characteristics, one day we may again see true-to-form Quaggas roaming their native country in vast numbers.

The area in which Mokala National Park is located would have been populated by zebras that were intermediate in appearance between the Quaggas and more “traditionally” patterned Plains Zebras, and thus when the Park was proclaimed it was decided to specifically stock it with zebras that had a lesser degree of striping, especially on their backs and haunches. These pale-rumped zebras are certainly an endearing feature of the Park.

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.

 

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32 thoughts on “Mokala’s Pale Zebras

  1. Pingback: A rich assortment of animals at Mokala | de Wets Wild

  2. petrujviljoen

    Die ‘bleek’ zebras lyk oningekleur! 🙂 Was die kwagga nie ‘n meer oker of ligbruin kleur nie? Die strepe dunner? Ek verbeel my ek het iewers gelees James Percy Fitzpatrick – van Jock of the Bushveld faam – het die laaste kwagga geskiet. Seker net een van daai legendes – hoe sal mens verseker weet in elk geval?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Jy is heeltemal reg, Petru – die oorspronklike kwaggas was in n groot mate bruin gekleur, veral op die rug en boude, met baie minder strepe. Die sebras wat by Mokala gevestig is is spesifiek gekies om so iets tusen die “gewone” sebras van verder noord en die ou kwaggas van die Karoo ten suide te wees, omdat historiese rekords daarop wys dat die oorspronklike diere in hierdie gebied se voorkoms so bietjie tussen die twee uiterstes was. Dit gee mens dus n idee van hoe hierdie landskap gelyk het voor als voor die geweer se loop moes swig.

      Of Percy Fitzpatrick die laaste wilde kwagga geskiet het sou ek nie kon se nie, maar die heel laaste een was die arme eensame merrie in Amsterdam se dieretuin.

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      1. petrujviljoen

        Ek het nie besef daar was ‘n kwagga in Amsterdam se dieretuin nie. Dis net so ‘n groot sonde soos Suid-Afrika se beste diamant wat in die kroon van Brittanje se koningin pryk. Sy behoort dit terug te gee!

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  3. colonialist

    I didn’t realise that the quagga had become extinct. I must have viewed throwbacks from time to time. I think of them as zebras visiting a nudist beach, with their white behinds!
    The efforts to restore the breed are highly commendable.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Sadly the quagga quite literally became extinct before anyone even realised it was heading that way – partly because at the time all zebras were referred to as “kwaggas”. Happily scientists figured out that it was a subspecies of the “common” plains zebra and so there is a chance to bring it (or animals that resemble it) back through selective breeding. Unfortunately this isn’t also the case for the Bloubok (which, it could at least be determined, was a close Cape relative of the roan and sable antelopes)

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      1. colonialist

        That is a pity about the Bloubok. Funny, though, we always referred to the blue duiker as the bloubok or bluebuck. I tamed a wild one as a child to the extent that I could stroke him and he would go for walks with me. I was the only human he trusted, though. I called him Billy.

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          That’s incredible! I haven’t even seen a wild blue duiker yet and you had a wild one for a companion! I only know about the alternative name for of “bloubokkie” from Daleen Matthee’s books and so it is interesting to know that it was in wide use (and probably still is). To this day one of the few quotes I would be able to recite in the middle of the night is “Die bloubokkie se gal sit nie in sy kop nie!” – how many essay questions didn’t I have to answer about that line in tests and exams…

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          1. colonialist

            There used to be a good number at The Heads when it was a tiny village. We had a dish of water under the tank tap (no municipal water in those days) and Billy would come and drink there at the same time every day. Over a number of weeks I sat closer and closer to the dish until he allowed me to touch him and eventually stroke him. I found him staying with me on a walk not long after, and then I used to call for him when I was setting out on a ramble. He accompanied me for astonishing distances, just as I later purr-suaded cats to do when lucky enough to have some wild to do it in, like Namibia.
            What is a ‘gal’ ? I know the meaning and implications of the quote in the sense of uncovering lies, but I still don’t know what was said to be in the head instead of the usual place.

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            1. de Wets Wild Post author

              The world you sketch of The Heads is very sadly long past with no hope of ever being resurrected. Terribly sad, but thanks to the beautiful memories you shared I can imagine a sliver of what it must have been like.

              “Gal” is gall – I couldn’t and still can’t fathom how and why the old woodcutters apparently believed that the gallbladder of a blue duiker was in its head instead of the usual place.

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              1. colonialist

                I can’t bear to revisit, actually.
                My best guess for the ‘gal’ was ‘gall’, but I also felt this was highly unlikely as a belief. It made a good illustration of the point, though: unquestioning acceptance of a ‘fact’ until somebody actually takes the trouble to blow it out of the water.

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  4. John

    Beautiful zebra! I didn’t know that are several species of zebra. This one I have never seen, that for sure, I had remember it because it have no stripes in their back. I look at Nat Geo Wild, Animal planet and other tv nature programs every days, but I have not learned as much as I learned since I started following your blog!, and this is my biggest interest!😊 Thanks Dries with family.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      That’s very kind and generous of you, thanks John!
      Indeed there are three species of zebras – mountain zebra, plains zebra and grevy’s zebra (which doesn’t occur in South Africa). These peculiarly patterned zebras are a special form of the plains zebra, reminiscent of the animals that would’ve occurred in the Mokala area in historic times.

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