When you think of Namibia, the name alone conjures up images of arid desert-scapes, towering red sand dunes and ancient vistas.

When I started looking around for a topic for this month’s blog, I turned to the wildlife, a natural enough topic, wildlife… Namibia is a big five destination, we are an ugly five destination, we use terms like near-endemic when referring to bird species, and this led me to ask myself – how many TRUE endemic mammal species are there in Namibia…

Let’s take a step back and look at the definition of the word ‘endemic’, in this context it means an animal which only occurs in one specific geographic region, usually an area which contains an endemic species is isolated in some way, so it makes sense that islands would have a high incidence of endemic animal species, but countries that are a part of greater continents and landmasses, would have a much lower incidence of endemic species.

During my research there seems to be a lot of data discrepancies with sites listing the number of endemic mammals in Namibia as anywhere from 8 to 16, the majority of these include bats, small carnivores and rodents; what there does seem to be agreement on is the fact that there are only one large endemic mammal species in Namibia; the Hartmann Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae).

Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra

The Hartmann Mountain Zebra is a sub-species of Mountain Zebra, together with the Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra).

Historically, the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra were distributed from Angola through to South Africa (just south of the Orange River) but this range area has shrunk, and there are only 5 areas in Namibia where they are still found; however their numbers indicate that there are about 25,000 individuals in Namibia, making it a healthy population.

In Namibia, we have two species of Zebra, namely the Burchell’s Zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) and The Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, and distinguishing between the two, with this handy guide, will be easier than you ever imagined!

Firstly, a good indication of which species you are looking at would be; where have you seen the Zebra? the Mountain Zebra is found mainly in the rocky, mountainous regions of Namibia, in the Kunene Region, the far western fringes of Etosha, the Namib Naukluft Mountains and the Fish River Canyon; whereas Burchell’s tend to live in grasslands, savannah scrub and tend to avoid the desert… (I suspect if they were English, they would be called ‘Southern Softies’)

Zebra reflections

Each Zebra has its own unique markings, as unique as your finger prints, but there are some distinguishing features which will help you!

The Hartmann’s has solid stripes, whereas the Burchell’s have a lighter, ‘shadow’ stripe between the dark stripes.

Also the distribution of the stripes will give you a clue; Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra’s stripes do not wrap around their bellies, but the stripes go all the way down to their hooves; whereas the Burchell’s stripes go all the way around, but fade as they go down the leg.

And if all else fails, Hartmann’s tend to live in small, family groups, whereas the Burchell’s congregate in herds; these are the ones you will find on the plains of the Etosha National Park, and migrating across Botswana.

Zebra at Meno a Kwena in Botswana

One thing you will notice, across all Zebra species, is that they ALWAYS look well fed and plump… this is from the bacteria in their gut which causes fermentation of the grass as they are digesting it.

As a result of this, zebras fart… a lot!

This leads me to the question… a herd of Zebras is caused a ‘Dazzle’ I wonder if this has any relation to the effect that standing behind a herd of farting Zebras would have on the unsuspecting tourist? ?