Zebras are large horse-like mammals that are found in Africa. Their most recognizable characteristics are black and white stripes that cover their bodies. Zebra stripes are like fingerprints; each pattern is unique to each zebra. Zebras are social animals and live in small groups, called harems, or large herds. These herbivores are preyed upon by carnivores that share their habitat and by humans.
Humans have damaged zebra populations not only by hunting them for their pelts but also by fragmenting their habitat. As farmland encroaches on the zebra's habitat, the zebra's food supply is degraded by livestock that overgraze or block access to waterholes.
One of the largest big cats, the carnivorous African lion preys on zebras. A single lion has the ability to take down a young zebra or one that is injured or ill. However, lions prefer to hunt in groups called prides. The pride teams up to stalk and take down prey, and working together a pride can take down even a healthy adult zebra.
Leopards, smaller than lions and other big cats, prefer to hunt alone. Its smaller size does, however, prevent it from taking out an adult zebra in good health. The leopard typically hunts smaller mammals such as wild pigs and deer, but it will go after young, injured or ill zebras.
The fastest land mammals on the planet, cheetahs are carnivores that hunt either alone or in packs. When they hunt alone, they generally stick to impalas, gazelles and baby zebras. When they hunt in packs, however, they have the ability to take out an adult zebra. Cheetahs, unlike other hunters, don't rely on their sense of smell as much as their sharp eyesight and raw speed.
African Wild Dogs and Spotted Hyenas
The African wild dog is endangered but still found in pockets of central Africa. These small pack predators hunt in groups of between 6 and 20. Because of their size, they usually hunt smaller mammals such as deer and antelope, but a large pack can take down an adult zebra. Likewise, the spotted hyena, which is a scavenger that sometimes hunts, will also hunt zebras in packs.
The Nile crocodiles are found in most of central and southern Africa's main waterways. This ambush predator will attack almost anything that crosses its path. Zebras are at great risk from crocodile attack when they swim across rivers or drink from water sources.
- African Wildlife Foundation: Grevy's Zebra Conservation
- African Wildlife Guide: The Large Mammals of Africa; Zebra
- National Geographic: Zebra
- National Geographic: Leopard
- National Geographic: Nile Crocodile
- NISL Ecological Informatics: BCB705 Biodiversity: Chapter2; Evolution of Biodiversity; Hyenas Go Zebra Hunting
- National Geographic: Cheetah
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images