Zebras are herbivores characterised by their black and white stripes, most of which are vertical. Female zebras are known as mares and their young as foals. There are various species of zebra, the three main ones being the plains zebra, the mountain zebra and Grévy's zebra.
They say that zebras whinny like horses, but Grévy's zebra brays, like a donkey! Grévy's zebra is also the largest of them all, and stands out from other species through its large, rounded ears and thinner stripes, which are also closer together, with around 80 vertical stripes in all. Its mane is long and stands up along its neck. The manes of foals extend the length of the back and shorten when they reach adulthood. Their tummies and areas around their tails are stripe-free, which creates an optical illusion, distorting their its bodies and making them look more imposing to predators.
Various theories have been put forward with regard to the purpose of zebra stripes, none of which has really been confirmed or refuted. In the shade during the day and at night, they pass by unnoticed thanks to their stripes, which may disrupt the vision of predators due to the strong contrast which changes as it moves. The stripes focus the light, which may afford Grévy's zebra some protection against horseflies and other external parasites. The third and final theory is that the stripes assist with temperature regulation. It is also thought that this was the first zebra to evolve after equids developed hooves.
Other species of zebra live socially in large groups and are migratory. Grevy's zebra, however, do not migrate and form small, very tight-knit herds, comprising stallions, mares and foals. They take up residence in a fairly large territory of up to 10 km². From the age of 2 to 4, male zebras live in small groups of bachelors. When they reach adulthood, stallions become solitary and do not tolerate other males during the breeding season.
Grévy's zebra live in East Africa. Originally they were found in Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea, but nowadays they are only found in northern Kenya and a very small area of Ethiopia. They live on semi-arid plains and can go without water for 5 days.
Though protected, Grévy's zebra is still hunted for its skin. The remaining population is thought to number around 2,000.
Grévy's zebra is so named because the first specimen described by scientists was given by the king of Ethiopia to French president Jules Grévy in 1882.