A fortuitous set of circumstances has led me to magnificent Zimbabwe. I’m living near the small town of Kariba which is on the edge of a National Park. This is a wild, awesome place where we live alongside a huge diversity of wildlife. Elephants on the road, baboons in the garden or scorpions in the sink are a part of everyday life here. But the most exciting thing for me are my wild zebra neighbours. My fascination with all things equine has been given free rein to go off on a stripey tangent. These beautiful creatures live out their eventful lives on the shores of the vast Lake Kariba. They are Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) which are the most numerous of all the three main species of zebra. Their Shona name is M’bizi and for many local people they are a totem animal.
Intriguingly over the past twenty five years or so these zebra have learned to live alongside the local human population. In our rapidly changing world which is often so detrimental to wild places and animals, finding examples of how to lead shared lives in peaceful coexistence with others is a precious thing. I expected to be studying and learning about their lives and behaviour, but now seeing how these wild creatures have integrated themselves into the local human community this has widened out into an example of hope and inspiration for the future.
I first lived here in 1993/94 when there were many more wild animals roaming around, and the zebra, when you occasionally saw them were skittish and kept a large distance between themselves and people. As the human population has grown and the settlements have expanded many of the wild animals have moved further away. An exception is the local zebra who are thriving here. I think one of the reasons is the sanctuary provided to them by living in close proximity to humans. This physical closeness brings an advantage because the large predators tend to shy away from human activity, thus affording the zebra a degree of safety. Another reason seems to be the spiritual significance that they hold for many of the local people. I have heard of this phenomena before. Animals who are feared or revered often survive, as they are avoided or respected and so left in peace. Other less symbolic species often diminish or are completely wiped out.
My intention with these zebra blogs is to share the privilege of having a glimpse into the lives of these wonderful animals. So far through observations and recordings I have been getting to know the individuals and groups. I’m beginning to build a database and gain a bit of an understanding of how they live out their lives and what quality of life looks like for this species. When I can I will interview some of the local people who share their lives with the zebra. I hope to find out some more of the elements that have gone into this successful model of coexisting harmoniously.
I would very much like to invite your involvement. If you have specific questions about their lives or a behaviour that you would like to see please do let me know. I always welcome collaboration and hope to do so by sharing this opportunity. I am at the start of my quest to learn about these animals and so would really welcome the input of any zebra experts who would like to get in touch.
For now I’ll leave you with this short clip of four bachelors wrestling, something that occupies a lot of their time!