Zebras Breed

In East Africa’s Ngorongoro crater, on the southern edge of the Serengeti Plain, the rainy season is almost over, and before the herds of wildebeasts and other animals begin migrating north – the Plains zebras are mating. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. We’re listening to the sounds of zebras.

Dr. Richard Estes is a behavioral ecologist and a leading expert on African mammals.

“The Plains zebra has evolved a system that enables the females and males to live together. Males actually own a harem of females, and so a large zebra aggregation is made up of a lot of harems. Each with a stallion and then there are bachelor males, which are basically males in waiting to be able to get their, to be able to start their own harems. And it’s particularly interesting I think that the harems are formed mainly by abducting or kidnapping juvenile females or fillies from their herd and they give special signals when they’re coming into estrus and stallions gather round. It’s an incredible marathon. One of the most amazing things you can see is the attempts of stallions to start or increase their harems. The herd stays with the stallion throughout the lifetime of the stallion, as long as he can defend it. But the female offspring are up for grabs. So each stallion that’s trying to start a herd has to go out and compete to capture or to abduct a female from the herd and it takes a whole year before the filly actually conceives and stays in the herd with the male. Meanwhile she’s going into estrus every month and all the stallions around respond to visual and olfactory signals she’s giving off and they have this unbelievable battle royals, real marathons before she ends up with one particular stallion for life.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.

Zebras Breed

Zebra stallions must do battle to acquire a herd and their own “harem” of fillys.
Air Date:04/22/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

In East Africa's Ngorongoro crater, on the southern edge of the Serengeti Plain, the rainy season is almost over, and before the herds of wildebeasts and other animals begin migrating north - the Plains zebras are mating. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. We're listening to the sounds of zebras.

Dr. Richard Estes is a behavioral ecologist and a leading expert on African mammals.

"The Plains zebra has evolved a system that enables the females and males to live together. Males actually own a harem of females, and so a large zebra aggregation is made up of a lot of harems. Each with a stallion and then there are bachelor males, which are basically males in waiting to be able to get their, to be able to start their own harems. And it's particularly interesting I think that the harems are formed mainly by abducting or kidnapping juvenile females or fillies from their herd and they give special signals when they're coming into estrus and stallions gather round. It's an incredible marathon. One of the most amazing things you can see is the attempts of stallions to start or increase their harems. The herd stays with the stallion throughout the lifetime of the stallion, as long as he can defend it. But the female offspring are up for grabs. So each stallion that's trying to start a herd has to go out and compete to capture or to abduct a female from the herd and it takes a whole year before the filly actually conceives and stays in the herd with the male. Meanwhile she's going into estrus every month and all the stallions around respond to visual and olfactory signals she's giving off and they have this unbelievable battle royals, real marathons before she ends up with one particular stallion for life."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.