Since mid-June, the Africa Enclosure at Basel Zoo has had a new main attraction: a young Grant’s Zebra. Shortly after the birth, the mother and foal headed out into the enclosure with the rest of the herd and have since been delighting the zoo’s visitors.
Basel Zoo’s Africa Enclosure is currently attracting large numbers of visitors. The reason for this is clear: they all want to see the colt Nyati, who was born on June 19th.
This is the fifth foal that the mother Chambura (age 11) has given birth to. The father is Tibor (age 6). Nyati was born in the stall in the early hours of the morning, and a Zookeeper was fortunate enough to observe the birth.
Zebras have a gestation period of one year, and births are relatively swift. While the mother lies on the floor, the rest of the herd stands guard nearby. One extraordinary characteristic is that baby Zebras are extremely active, almost straight after they are born. They stand up after little more than ten minutes, can already start to walk after another twenty minutes and, another ten minutes later, start to gallop. According to Adrian Baumeyer, curator of the Africa Enclosure, this is “vital to the animals’ survival” in the wild.
In the first few days after the birth, the mother generally keeps other members of the herd at a distance, until she has established a strong bond with the foal. On the second day after Nyati’s birth, mother and foal headed out into the enclosure with the rest of the herd. During the first week, this activity was supervised to prevent Nyati falling into the moat while learning to walk.
Foals are suckled for six to eight months. Colts have to leave the herd after one to one-and-a-half years. They are driven away by their father and, in the wild, join a group of bachelors comprising five to ten stallions, in which they remain for three to five years. After this time, the bachelors start to challenge the stallions, which lead a herd with several mares, to an even greater extent. If a stallion shows weakness, it is driven away. A new stallion then takes over the mare herd.
Basel Zoo’s Africa Enclosure is a community enclosure with Zebras, Ostriches and Hippopotamuses. It opened in July 1992. The first animals to move in were a young Hippopotamus pair and a small herd of Zebras. The Ostriches joined these one-year later. During the day, a partition exists between the Zebras and the Ostriches on one side of the enclosure and the Hippopotamuses on the other side, preventing any direct contact between the animals. At night, either the Hippopotamuses or the Zebras can then use the enclosure.
Grant's Zebra (Equus quagga boehmi) is the smallest of six subspecies of the plains Zebra. This subspecies represents the Zebra form of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
Zebras are widespread in Eastern Africa. They live in the savannah and open forests. They are highly dependent on water and need to drink almost daily to survive. They primarily feed on grass, leaves and bark. A zebra’s stripe pattern is its most striking feature and as unique as a human fingerprint. The animals use this pattern to recognize each other.