Swiping right on survival: In a new home, a Cape mountain zebra stallion will help diversify the gene pool

2019-08-07 10:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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One Cape mountain zebra stallion is going to get very lucky in his new home.

The fact that the almost-extinct species is still around is a much-lauded conservation success story, but there's one thing that still threatens their future - inbreeding.

READ: #Avitourism: This bird species has made a remarkable comeback to the Karoo 

cape mountain zebra with colourful tags

A stallion roaming free at Sanbona. (Photo: CapeNature)

Only three lineages - Gamkaberg, Kammanassie and Cradock - remain of the once prolific Western Cape zebra subspecies, and to keep their gene pools resilient certain virile bucks need to be moved around to meet up with some new singles in their area.

Their version of Tinder however is organised by a joint conservation partnership and Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) between CapeNature and relevant reserves - in this case Sanbona Wildlife Reserve.

One lucky bachelor zebra was selected from Gamkaberg Reserve after he and his friends tried to escape from the reserve in May, and while the rest were returned to the reserve, this fella was put into quarantine so that he can be moved to a new location where there will be lots of new right swipes.

His new bachelor pad is in Sanbona, at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, where 50 other zebras are looking to find love.

SEE: DEA approves plan to 'strengthen' population of SA's endemic Cape mountain zebra 

cape mountain zebra in quarantine

GB9 successfully immobilised - note dart in left flank; colour coding is for ID after release in case the collar is lost. (Photo; CapeNature.)

Vet checking out cape mountain zebra

Paul Vorster from Sanbona fitting the satellite collar, while Gamkabereg student Esethu looks on. (Photo; CapeNature.)

"The procedure was a great success thanks to a well-coordinated and professional team effort," says CapeNature on their blog.

"The handling and transport of Cape mountain zebras are tricky because these nervous animals are prone to jumping when startled, leading to injuries or even death. But wildlife veterinarian Dr Willem Burger and the Bergsig Game Farm team made the darting, immobilisation and loading up of the Gamkaberg stallion, GB9, look effortless."

While there were some concerns over whether GB9 would be welcomed by the new squad, CapeNature has "high hopes" that he will find a group of fellow single stallions or perhaps star in his very own The Bachelor with a female-only herd.

"The Cape mountain zebra conservation story is a ray of light in a time when we are facing overwhelming biodiversity loss, described by some conservation experts as 'the sixth mass extinction'.

"The population of these zebras, once reduced to around 60 individuals, now stands at about 5000. The zebras, previously classified as Critically Endangered, are no longer considered threatened thanks to public and private conservation efforts. But active management is needed to keep numbers stable."

Hopefully, GB9 has the moves to do his part in helping the survival of his species. 

ALSO SEE: Eastern Cape Escape: Track cheetahs on foot in Mountain Zebra National Park

cape mountain zebra herd

A Sanbona stallion keeping the rest of his herd away from the newcomer. (Photo: CapeNature).

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