For Wild Zebra ~ It’s All About The Spots

An elusive zebra having both stripes and spots was observed by wildlife photographer and safari guide Paul Goldstein.

In all his 25 years in the wilds of Africa, Goldstein had never seen a zebra with markings such as this.

The zebra was discovered in Kenya’s Masai Mara, one of the best places in the world for wildlife watching.  After two years of tracking, Goldstein was finally able to photograph this animal.

It appeared that this unique zebra had been ostracized by the other zebra, presumably because of its spotted markings.

According to Goldstein, this unique zebra is shy, “extremely bad tempered” and aggressive towards other zebras and appears to have no mates. However, he does have a lot of scars.

Goldstein states that ‘every zebra in Africa has slightly different markings, but this one has taken that to extremes.’

“The mane is short and completely black. The hooped markings on the legs are completely different to normal ones.  It has the shape of a donkey, but is much darker all over. The spots are very prominent’.

According to recent research done by UCLA Environmental Studies, other spotted zebra have been observed in prior years.

In 1967, a Spotted zebra was photographed in Botswana.

And in 2009 a Spotted zebra was photographed Nairobi National Park in Kenya.

Scientists have been speculating about the purpose of the zebra’s stripes since the 1870s, when Charles Darwin criticized Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory that the stripes provided camouflage in tall grass. Zebras prefer open savannahs, Darwin argued, where the grass is too short to make stripes useful hiding tools.

Since then, some scientists believe zebra evolved in such a way so as to make it easier to recognize each other.

Others say it is to confuse predators when they bunch into groups to avoid attack.

Further suggestions have been that the patterns of dark and light fur might cause air turbulence, helping the animals to cool off.

This year a group of scientists suggested still another theory: that zebra developed stripes to keep blood-sucking flies at bay.

It is known that the patterns covering the zebra are as distinctive as human fingerprints.

But here we are, still at the age old question … how and why did the zebra get its stripes.

Now we have the question … how and why did the zebra get its spots.

~~~

Sources:
UCLA Zebra Research
Discovery News
Mail Online

Photo Credits:
Paul Goldstein/Rex Features
Kenya Wildlife Services
Quagga Project
Brenda Larison
Dan Rubinstein

Rare Somali Wild Ass Is Born At Miami Zoo

For the first time in the history of the Miami Zoo, a critically endangered Somali Wild Ass was born. This celebrated event took place late this summer.

The Somali Wild Ass is critically endangered with only a few hundred left in the wild. Something as simple as a drought could be enough to wipe out the species completely.

The female foal was named “Hani”, which means happy or full of joy in Somali.

The Somali wild ass is the last remaining ancestor of the modern donkey.  They are the smallest of the wild equids and are found in the rocky deserts in very isolated areas of Eastern Africa.

The adults weigh approximately 500 pounds. The mares usually give birth to a single foal after a gestation of 11 months.

The Somali wild ass are characterized by their smooth gray coat and their striped legs which are indicative of their close relation to zebras.

Play behavior appears to be important in the development of this species, which might serve many functions later in life.

What has been learned is that the Somali wild ass is an amazing social animal. They have associations within the herd that remain consistent, and those associations are reflected in their behavior.

All the adult Somali animals are on loan to the Miami Zoo and other zoos by the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

They state that any information learned about this species can benefit their reproduction within zoological facilities and conservation in the wild.

They are part of a carefully planned captive breeding program, which is designed to maintain healthy populations of these extremely rare animals for generations to come.

 ~~~

Re-written from news sources: 
San Diego News
Miami Herald
NBC Miami News

Photos:  Ron Magill

Another Triumph ~ Przewalski Foal Born At Australian Zoo

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New Przewalski’s horse foal “Effie”
stands with mother Natasya

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This past November, the Monarto Zoo in Australia added another jewel to its crown, with a rare Przewalski’s foal born at the zoo, the first successful birth of the animal since 2000.

Born on Melbourne Cup day, the little white foal has been nicknamed Effie after cup winner Efficient.

The birth sent a wave of excitement through staff as it carries worldwide significance.

Przewalski’s horses are the last of the world’s wild horses, with concerted efforts under way to ensure they do not become extinct.

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Only about 100 to 120 remain in the wild in Mongolia, and Effie is the first Przewalski’s horse to survive at the zoo since 2001.

In the mid-90s, the zoo was involved in an international program and sent two mayors from Adelaide to re-establish the species in Mongolia, after they became extinct in the wild.

Monarto zoo senior curator Peter Clark said the mares had to go through some extreme climate changes, from 40C heat in Australia to -40C in Mongolia. “One of these mares is alive to this day and has had several foals,” he said.

“It is a big testament to their ability to survive in the most extreme of climatic conditions.

“They are tough animals.”

News Link:

Earlier Post:  Last of the True Wild Horses

Rare Caspian Horse Makes Comeback

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A breed of horse thought extinct for a thousand years is well and truly on the comeback trail thanks to the efforts of breeders like Pat Bowles.

The recent arrival of a Caspian foal at her British stud is yet another small piece in a remarkable jigsaw that has been growing since the breed was rediscovered in the mid-1960s by American woman Louise Firouz.  The foal arrived during the summer of 2007.

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The Caspian breed holds a unique place in history as it was shown on the Seal of King Darius the Great around 500BC.

Today, there is an estimate of 400 in Britain and over 1650 in the world.

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An English-bred stallion – Runnymede Karamat
was one of the first
Caspians to be exported to the USA.

~~~

Story Link: News Report

Story Link: Rediscovery of the Caspian Horse

Story Link: Caspians Horses Around The World

Story Link: The Caspian Horse Today

Story Link: How DNA Saved An “Extinct” Breed

The Lore of the Marwari Horse

The Marwari horse of today is descended from the splendid war horses that have served the ruling families and warriors of feudal India.

Then, and throughout most of India’s history, their status was unparalleled.

They were declared divine, and superior to all men, including those of royal blood.

The Marwari horse is native to the Marwar region of India, and its origins are entwined with local folklore.

The Rathores, a warrior clan of the Raiputs, were driven from their kingdom of Kannaju around the 12th century.

The harsh and desolate land in which they resettled was known as “Maru Pradesh,” the land of death, and it required a rugged horse.

The native Marwari horse proved well suited for both the desert and its role in battle for the Rathore cavalry.

With their long history as warrior horses in the desert, the Marwari are adaptable and agreeable in a variety of rugged environments.

In the desert, their smaller frame and light weight help them negotiate uneven and soft desert sand.

The Marwari breed has long been noted for its exceptional hearing: allowing both horse and rider early warning of impending danger.

The Marwari horses have several distinctive physical characteristics.

They have an extremely proud bearing, distinctive aquiline head and deeply expressive eyes.

Perhaps most noticeable are the ears with their unusual lyre-shape which often appear to meet at the tips.

This is unique to the breed. They are noted for their graceful, active gait and their good nature.

~~~

Link: About The Marwari Breed

Link: Saving The Raja’s Horse ~ Smithsonian Magazine

Endangered Suffolk Horse Bred By Queen Elizabeth II

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“Poppy” with her new arrival, “Sandringham Sailor II

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Queen Elizabeth II is giving here support in the survival of one of England’s most endangered native breeds.

Four years ago the Suffolk Horse Society (SHS) presented the Queen with a filly foal named Whitton Poppy, who had been bred on a farm at Ipswich, England.
 
This past May,  Poppy produced her own foal, a colt to be named Sandringham Sailor II after a Suffolk horse once owned by the Queen’s father George VI.
 
Amanda Hillier, administrative secretary of the SHS said Sailor is registered number 9000, meaning he is the 9000th Suffolk colt to be born since the society was formed in 1877.

“It’s lovely that he should have a special number like that,” said Mrs Hillier.

“We are still a critically endangered breed according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

“We are moving forward, but slowly.”

Before the First World War there were more than two million Suffolk heavy horses used on farms in the UK.

Now the breed is considered by some to be more endangered than the Great Panda, with only 420 registered – 110 of which are geldings.

Sailor could become one of the breed’s registered stallions if at two years old he is found to conform to breed standards.

News Link:

Colonial Williamsburg’s Rare Breeds Keep History Alive

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 American Cream Draft Horses

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Colonial Williamsburg’s Rare Breeds program was begun in 1986 to preserve genetic diversity in livestock.

Some of the selected breeds represent animals that could have been present in Williamsburg during the 18th century according to historical research.

Rare is defined as having fewer than 1,000 animals registered annually in North America.

The breeds in the foundation’s program –American Cream Draft horses, the Leicester Longwool sheep and America Milking Red Devons – have fewer than 200 animals registered annually in North America.  Also included are the Canadian horses.

~~~

The American Cream Draft Horse

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The only modern breed in the program also is the rarest – just over 500 still exist in North America. American Cream Draft horses are the only breed of draft horse originating from the United States and are now bred here.

Breed characteristics include a medium cream-colored coat, pink skin, amber eyes, long, white mane and tail and white markings. These horses mature late at five years old and have an excellent temperament.

Mares stand from 15 to 16 hands and weigh 1,500 to 1,600 pounds. Males stand 16 to 16.3 hands and weigh 1,800 pounds and up.

American Creams pull wagons and carriages throughout Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

Canadian Horses

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Colonial Williamsburg’s most recent addition to the Rare Breeds program, Canadian horses were developed from horses sent from France to Quebec between 1665 and 1670.

They stand 14 to 16 hands. Mares weigh 900 to 1,300 pounds and males weigh 1,000 to 1,400 pounds. Canadians were used for farm work, transport, riding and racing.

Canadian horses are solid and well-muscled with a well-arched neck set high on a long, sloping shoulder. Canadians are primarily black or reddish brown with full manes and tails.  They are energetic without being nervous and are adaptable for a variety of riding and driving disciplines.

Originally imported from Canada, Canadian horses now are bred in Colonial Williamsburg

Leicester Longwool Sheep

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A long, healthy, lustrous coat which falls in ringlets, ease of feeding, valuable meat supply and quick maturation are the sheep’s breed traits. Leicester (pronounced “lester”) Longwools originated in Britain and were used as a pioneer breed.

Their use extended to America, Australia, New Zealand and other colonies settled by the Crown.

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Today they are quite rare in Britain and North America, but they can still be imported from Australia. Their wool is sold to hand spinners, weavers, felters and dollmakers for hair and beards.

The original herd of Colonial Williamsburg’s Leicester Longwool sheep came from Tasmania, but now the sheep are bred here.

Milking Shorthorn and Randall Oxen

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Trucks, tractors and bulldozers of the 18th century; oxen are cattle trained to work. In Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, there are two breeds: Milking Shorthorns and Randalls.

Milking Shorthorns originated in England, can be red or white, and are used for milk, meat, and work.

Randalls were bred in a closed herd by a Vermont family of the same name for 80 years. They are also called linebacks, due to the white line that runs down their backs.

Both breeds are rare, classified as a watch breed and a critical breed, respectively. Oxen Emmitt, Gage, Rusty, Red, Bart, Bud, Timer and Tuck can be found working in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and at Great Hopes Plantation.

American Milking Red Devons

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Diversity is the trademark of this breed. Their milk contains a high butterfat content – prized in the 18th century for butter and cheese production.

They are very intelligent and are good work animals that are easy to feed. Their milk is used in the Historic Area Foodways program.

Descended from the Red Devon breed native to Devonshire, England, American Milking Devons now are bred here.

Story Link: Colonial Williamsburg Rare Breeds

Last of The True Wild Horses

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Thirty-five years ago, the people of Mongolia caught what they thought was their final glimpse of a wild takh, the world’s last remaining species of untamed horse.

Mongolia has been the land of the horse for longer than anyone can remember.

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Distinguished from domestic horses in part by their thicker necks, shorter legs, and zebra-like erect mane, takhi were last seen in the wild during the 1960s in the Gobi, which accounts for roughly the southern third of Mongolia.

To some people, the takh became just another species on the long list of animals that are extinct (no longer living) in the wild. But to a group of scientists who refused to see extinction in the wild as a point of no return, the disappearance became a challenge: Two decades ago, they turned to zoos for help in bringing captive-bred takhi (plural for takh) back to their native land.

Today takhi–the Mongolian national symbol–have returned to the vast steppes (open grasslands) that cover much of the country.

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Takhi are unlike any other horses. They’ve never been tamed or, many people believe, ever ridden. “Some [takhi] in zoos have become tame enough to be touched. But that’s about it,” explains Lee Boyd, a biologist at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, who has studied takhi behavior.

The horses most people are familiar with are domestic which humans have bred over thousands of years to have a specific color, size, or temperament.

Takhi (Equus fetus przewalskii) are a completely different species. Standing at just three to four feet tall, they’re much shorter than domestic horses. They have a thick neck and a bristly, dark-brown mane. Takhi are also well adapted (adjusted) to a harsh life on Mongolia’s steppe.

Takhi have 66 chromosomes (structures in cells that carry the genetic information for an organism), while domestic horses have 64. This makes takhi unique–and irreplaceable should the species disappear completely.

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For more than 10,000 years, takhi roamed the steppe that once stretched from the Iberian Peninsula (southwest tip of Europe) to Manchuria on the east coast of China. Over centuries, the climate slowly warmed and their habitat (native environment) changed from open grassland to dense forest.

At the same time, humans began turning much of the remaining grassland into farms or grazing land for livestock. This restricted the takhi’s movement and reduced their habitat even more.

A group of Dutch scientists in the late 1970s discovered there were only 300 takhi remaining in zoos and private collections around the world. That’s when they began working to return takhi to the Mongolian steppe.

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Today, after several more reintroductions, nearly 209 horses roam Hustai Nuruu and another park in the far western part of Mongolia known as Gobi-B. The worldwide zoo population has “also grown to nearly 2,000 animals, which biologists hope to keep healthy so they have a reserve in case disease or another disaster kills the reintroduced animals.

The reintroduction program has done more than bring takhi back to Mongolia. It has also helped raise people’s awareness of the vanishing steppe and the importance of preserving the world’s biodiversity (the number of different plants and animals).

In Mongolia, where takh means “spirit,” takhi have provided a visible link between preservation of one species and the overall health of an ecosystem.

“The [takh] is an umbrella species,” says Steve Monfort, a veterinary scientist with the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. “By reintroducing it to critical habitat, you help save the entire habitat.

If you save that one animal, you have an umbrella to save all the other species in that area.”

~~~

Link:  Rare Przewalski’s Horse (earlier post)

Link: Takhi Wild Horse

Rare Poitou Donkey Foals Born

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The news just doesn’t get any better for a rare breed of donkeys that grow to be taller than most horses.

A British stud farm dedicated to preserving the rare Poitou donkey has managed to breed four foals within a 20-day period – two colts and two fillies.

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Just 44 Poitou donkeys were known to exist in 1976. Their numbers have since increased to an estimated 600 to 800 worldwide.

The four newcomers, Tilda, Tomas, Tarka and Tizer, have proved to be a big hit for Woodford Farm, in Hampshire.

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The farm eventually had to put up “no entry” signs after being inundated by members of the public to see the photogenic little newcomers.

The mares and their foals also became media darlings, with BBC local and national news services carrying the story.

However, the publicity has had a plus side. “We have had some genuine interest from other people who want to help save the breed,” said owner,  Annie Pollack.  

“We have had a short film made about us by the BBC Natural History Department.  

I just want more people to hear about Poitous and hence help save the breed.”

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The first of the four foals was born on April 27; the other three following over the next 20 days.

The breed is much bigger than conventional donkeys, and can reach 16 hands. Poitous have a good covering of hair, with heat usually more of a problem than cold.

Life for the Poitous on Woodford Farm would be the envy of many horses. They have shelter from the rain and are fed twice daily, with lots of hay. They are groomed regularly and Annie says the foals get a lot of handling.

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They are believed to date back to Roman times, with the records of the time referring to big donkeys.

“It was the whole industrialisation process that caused their downfall – railways, mechanisation, and a depression in agriculture.”

There is another reason for the Poitou‘s rarity.

“This breed was primarily used to breed mules – huge great 17-hand animals which were used for riding or as pack animals. They were crossed with a Mulassier mare, which is like a large, heavyweight French cob. They are also very rare.”

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Annie says, “The Poitou are a lovely breed – gentle giants.  Worth saving?  I definitely think so.”

 

Rare Horse Breed Proves Crucial To England’s Wetlands

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A rare breed of horse once at the centre of Nazi experiments has been recognized as a key part of plans to restore the  delicate wetlands of England.

It is now acknowledged that the grazing habits of the rare Konik breed – the name meaning small horse in Polish – play a crucial part in helping to make wetlands more habitable for other species.

The project to restore them to Kentish wetlands is a joint venture between the Wildwood Trust, near Canterbury, English Nature and Kent Wildlife Trust.

It’s one of the oldest animals known to man. Wild horses once roamed all over Europe and England.  Now the wild Konik horse is once again grazing on the English lowlands.

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They are a highly unusual breed, descended directly from the Tarpan, the wild European forest horse hunted to extinction in Britain in Neolithic times.

Tarpan survived in central Europe until the late 1800s when the last were captured in the primeval forest of Bialoweiza, Poland, and taken to zoos. The last died in 1910.

In the early 20th century, Polish scientists noticed Tarpan-coloured foals – mouse grey overall with zebra stripes on their legs and dark manes and tails – were still being born to domestic mares in herds where Tarpan had formerly ranged.

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It was also noticed that they turned whiter over winter – another Tarpan trait.They selected these and back-bred them successfully over generations to recreate the extinct forest horse.

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Between the two world wars, German zoo directors were supported by senior Nazi party officials such as Herman Goering in their effort to recreate these primeval horses. The Tarpan featured heavily in German folklore.

After the Nazi invasion of Poland, whole herds where stolen and transported back to Germany.

Polish scientists looking after wild horse herds managed to protect some, and after the war the protected herds were allowed to repopulate the national parks of Poland under Soviet occupation.

When the Iron Curtain fell, conservationists were at last able to transport the wild horses to national parks across Europe.  

Wildwood Trust pioneered the re-introduction of these horses to Britain in 2002. It brought the first ever of their breed to arrive in southern England and these horses and their offspring have been helping to restore some of the most precious national nature reserves in the UK.

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Since this time, conservation grazing projects throughout Europe have used the Konik horses for wetland grazing projects.

The former habitat of Tarpan was marshy woodland where their grazing activities help create ideal living conditions for a host of associated wildlife such as rare geese, spoonbills, bitterns and corncrakes.

At present, most of the trust’s herd are grazing at nature reserves around the county.

Wildwood Trust runs WoodlandDiscoveryPark, a visitor attraction which forms part of their strategy to save native and once-native wildlife from extinction.

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Wildwood includes a forest enclosure where Konik horses retired from the trust’s main herds can spend their days, providing the many visitors with a good look at the remarkable breed.

 Link:  News Release

Photos: Les Willis

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