_ Zebras are one of the more common and fascinating animals to share the savanna with giraffes. Along with wildebeests, zebras range widely through the Masai Steppe ecosystem during the rainy season, and congregate in Tarangire and Manyara during the dry season to seek water. In fact, Tarangire National Park was created in 1970 to protect the critical dry-season water sources that allow the entire Masai Steppe ecosystem to function. Unfortunately, the migration routes of zebras and wildebeests were not included in the park, and are now gravely threatened by human settlements. Furthermore, zebras and wildebeests as well as giraffes and other ungulates are subject to rampant poaching outside the national parks. The Wild Nature Institute is committed to finding solutions to protect the ungulates of the Masai Steppe to keep this ecosystem healthy and alive.
In Acacia woodlands, zebras are often found near giraffes, because giraffes can act as look-outs for predators such as lions. Zebras breed year-round, but the peak of births is in December and January. Sure enough, we saw our share of zebra foals on our first round of TUNGO surveys. Zebras are born nearly white with very faint brown stripes. As they grow, the stripes darken.
Tarangire Hill in Tarangire National Park.
_ The Masai Steppe ecosystem is a world hotspot for diversity of ungulates, or hoofed mammals. In our study area alone, there are 18 species of ungulates! Ungulates are very important grazers (of grasses and herbs) and browsers (of trees and shrubs). Some of the more well-known grazers in our study area include wildebeests, zebras, cape buffalos, elands, hartebeests, waterbucks, and gazelles, while browsers include lesser kudus, gerenuks, and of course, giraffes.
_ By eating vegetation and processing it through their digestive system, and because they are important prey for a whole host of predators and scavengers, ungulates are key animals in the shaping and maintaining of the ecosystems where they live. The Wild Nature Institute formed the Tarangire Ungulate Observatory (TUNGO) to monitor the populations of all ungulates in the Masai Steppe and to understand their habitat use and ecology. Please click on the photos of some of our ungulates below to view them full-size.
Science News and Updates From the Field from Wild Nature Institute.
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