I fell in love with the two beautiful little lynx girls in the photo at right a couple of days after they were born. (They were featured in last year’s April post.) I visited them several times a week until they left for Parc Safari early in 2017 along with the four handsome white lion lads (featured in my September post of last year). I had wanted to visit Parc Safari for quite some time – and I have relatives in Montreal whom I don’t get to see nearly often enough – so last June before school was out for the summer I headed off to Quebec for a couple of days and visited that Zoo. I had a fantastic time, caught up with some old (four-legged) friends, and met some new ones whom we dropped in on again this year when Sarah and I went back to Parc Safari with some good friends. One of the best decisions I made last year (and repeated this year) was to buy a ticket for the Safari Truck that takes you through part of the drive-through but also goes “behind the scenes” a bit and takes you into an area that’s off-limits for normal traffic: where the giraffes, elands, rhino, and zebras live. There were babies all over the Parc (and many more again this year), but this month I will focus on one I saw in that special area: a Damara zebra foal.
There are three distinct species of zebras: the plains zebra (which contains the subspecies “Burchell’s zebra”, also known as the Damara zebra), the mountain zebra, and the Grévy’s zebra. All three belong to the genus Equus (which also includes horses and donkeys), but the Grévy’s is the sole member of its own subspecies, Dolichohippus, as they more closely resemble donkeys than horses. When you visit a Zoo, you are most likely going to encounter Grévy’s zebras than any other type, mainly due to their endangered status. The Toronto Zoo, for example, has a small herd of Grévy’s, one of whom (Rey) I featured in last year’s July post. Wow. I think this might set the record for the most self-referential blog post I have ever made! In any event, the Burchell’s zebra (or Damara zebra, or Zululand zebra, or bontequagga) is the “only subspecies of zebra which may be legally farmed for human consumption. Which I would have been fine not learning.
If you look at the photo at left here, the main differences between Grévy’s zebras and Burchell’s zebras are quite noticeable. You can see the different shapes to their heads and muzzles, and also their stripe patterns. Not only is the Damara’s striping more sparse and fainter, but there appear to be three colours in all, including a silvery one which (I think) really accentuates their beauty. Speaking of colours, that reminds me of a question I used to like to ask the children I would lead in tours around the Savanna: is the zebra (in this case, the Grévy’s) white with black stripes, or black with white stripes? “White with black stripes” was the usual first answer. “Nope,” I would respond. “Then black with white stripes!” “Nope,” I answered again. As their confused faces turned to me, I would go on to explain that what appears to be black stripes on the zebra are actually very, very dark brown. They appear black because they are offset by the white alternating with them, but if you look very closely at the mane and the stripes closest to the face, you will see the brown in them. (By the way, it turns out that zebras are actually black…er, brown… with white stripes. I had always thought they were white as a base, because of their white tummies.)
While we were in the UK in late 2015, we encountered a small herd of Chapman’s zebras at the ZSL London Zoo. Their markings are very similar to those of the Damaras, but I feel that the contrasting stripes are much more apparent on the Chapman’s. As both are subspecies of the plains zebra, they are difficult to tell apart with the naked eye. Both are considered to be at quite low risk on the IUCN Red List, inasmuch as any animal can be at “low risk” these days. We visited the Edinburgh Zoo a week or so later and they were home to a dazzle of Grévy’s zebras, so I was quite happy to have seen the Chapman’s variety in London.
I am about 98% certain I saw my young model when I returned to Parc Safari this summer, although I was unable to get any good photos of her. Our truck didn’t linger among the zebras nearly as long in high season this year as it did in low season last summer. Food for thought, I suppose? In any event, they still had a very sizeable herd of zebras and they looked as content as ever to be sharing a secret pasture with the elands and giraffes. I was even able to reach down low enough to be able to feed one or two of them a couple of handfuls of the pellets one can buy before visiting the herbivores, just as I did last year. They have really soft lips and the most beautiful eyes when they are up really close to you, so of course I could have stayed there all day just talking to – and interacting with – them. But there were many more animals to get close to, so we moved on. If you would like to see the photos of the rest of our day, please take a look at my Facebook page for The Grumpy Penguin, and “like” it if you wish to be notified of future albums. That way, you won’t have to wait for the first of each month for your fix!
That’s it for this month. I have a special treat for you next month: a (virtual) visit to Monkey World and Ape Rescue Centre in England. Hope to see you back here in October!