The great zebra migration

By Catherine Gray

What is black and white and goes at 64hm/h? No, not a penguin on a scooter, but herds of zebra on one of Africa's most epic migrations.

Imagine thousands of zebras thundering down a savannah, their stripes shimmering in the heat. It creates quite the optical illusion, like an enormous, undulating Magic Eye image, and is an extraordinary sight.

Astonished scientists recently discovered that these plains zebras (the most common of the species) make the longest migration of all land mammals in Africa. The research team, including Elephants Without Borders and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), fitted eight female zebras with satellite-tracked collars, in order to monitor the herds’ movements.

Tagging the wild zebras was no easy task though. A zebra kick is so powerful, it can kill a lion, so the animals had to be sedated and docile before the team could approach them.

The study discovered that from early December onwards, thousands of plains zebras embark on an incredible journey that begins with them covering 240km in just over a fortnight. Likely in search of fresh grazing, the herds leave the northern region of the Chobe River in Namibia, heading south to the Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana. They stay in the park for two months, then return to the wetter regions of Namibia for the dry season. Their journey home makes a round trip of 480km – or the equivalent of the length of Ireland.

The distance covered by these zebras was a total shock to all of us involved in the study,’ says Robin Naidoo, senior conservation scientist at the WWF. ‘Nobody knew that something of this scale, with this much ground covered, was occurring.

Featured image © Neil Aldridge | Earth Capture

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