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Endangered Zebra Filly Born at Toronto Zoo

1_TZ_GrevysZebraFoal_Photo Credit - C.Thompson, Toronto Zoo - 4

The Toronto Zoo is pleased to announce that Tori, a six-year-old female Grevy's Zebra, gave birth to a filly on July 26. This birth is important for Grevy's Zebra conservation, as the species is currently listed as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. According to estimates, there are about 2,000 left in the wild.

This is the second filly Tori has given birth to at the Toronto Zoo (the first being Leia, in January of 2014, with sire Jake). The new little filly began to walk ten minutes after she was born, which is an important milestone in her development. Both mom and filly are doing well, and she is already starting to develop her own strong and confident personality, according to her Zoo Keepers.

2_TZ_GrevysZebraFoal_Photo Credit - C.Thompson, Toronto Zoo - 6

3_TZ_GrevysZebraFoal_Photo Credit - C.Thompson, Toronto Zoo - 2

4_TZ_GrevysZebraFoal_Photo Credit - K.Haider, Toronto Zoo - 4Photo Credits: C. Thompson/ Toronto Zoo

Grevy's Zebras (Equus grevyi) were first put on the IUCN list in 1986, after their population began to decline due to over hunting in the late 1970s. Today, Grevy's Zebras are primarily found in Kenya and Ethiopia. Over the past 30 years, their global population has declined by approximately 70%. The major threats facing Grevy's Zebras are: loss of grazing habitat, reduced access to available water sources, competition for resources, hunting and disease.

"The birth of Tori's filly is a great opportunity to spread the word on the plight of Grevy's Zebras in the wild," says Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo. "As one of the Zoo's key mandates is to educate visitors on current conservation issues and help preserve biodiversity, this filly helps highlight the importance of zebra conservation and what is being done to preserve this magnificent species in Africa. The Toronto Zoo supports Grevy's Zebra conservation efforts in Ethiopia and Kenya, through the Toronto Zoo Endangered Species Reserve Fund."

The Toronto Zoo’s Endangered Species Reserve Fund supports Canadian species and other critical projects around the world, further emphasizing our ongoing commitment to fight extinction. Every animal at the Zoo is an ambassador for its counterpart in the wild, and each animal strives to create a connection with the public to bring attention to the problems facing species in the wild. The Toronto Zoo believes it has a shared responsibility to care for wildlife on this planet, and the Zoo works hard to be a leader in efforts to save animals and habitats that need help.

The Toronto Zoo is also part of the Grevy's Zebra Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a series of long-term breeding and conservation plans that act as an insurance policy fighting against extinction to save endangered species. These plans focus on maintaining genetically healthy captive populations and conservation efforts in the wild. Now, more than ever, the work the Toronto Zoo does to save and protect species and their habitats is critical to the ongoing survival of many of the worlds’ most endangered species, including the Grevy's Zebra.

The Grevy’s Zebra is the largest living wild equid. It can be distinguished from other species of zebra by its larger ears and narrower stripes.

An herbivorous, nomadic grazer, the species feeds primarily on coarse grasses and sedges, but will also eat bark, leaves, buds, fruits, and roots. Grevy’s Zebras have incisors that they use to clip grass and numerous cheek-teeth that grind their food.

Grevy's Zebras can mate and give birth year-round, but most mating takes place at the beginning of the rainy season. Births mostly take place in August or September, after the rainy season.

Gestation of the Grevy's Zebra normally lasts about 13 months, with a single foal being born. Within an hour after birth, the young are up and about. Initially, the mare and her newborn stay away from the others for a few days, preventing other mares from approaching her foal. Isolating the foal in this way helps with bonding and prevents it from accepting another female as its mother. The mother imprints her striping pattern, scent and vocalization on her foal.

After the period of bonding, and until the foals reach the age of three months, females form small groups (three females and their foals). Mares may leave their foals in "kindergartens" while searching for water. Kindergartens tend to be guarded by an adult, which may be a territorial male. Foals remain dependent on their mother’s milk until six to eight months of age and stay with their mother for up to two to three years.