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Why are zebras so agressive

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by tigris115, 1 Jan 2017.

  1. tigris115

    tigris115 Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering why zebras in captivity tend to pick on other herbivores. I've never seen Grevy's zebra in a mixed exhibit so I assume it's for a good reason.
     
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  2. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Very simple: if one lives in a habitat with the plethora of predators like a zebra does, you need to be able to fight back as best you can. It also helps that one good kick from a zebra will hurt another animal pretty bad
     
  3. Zoovolunteer

    Zoovolunteer Well-Known Member

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    To be fair, I suspect it is a general rule for all non-domestic equids - perhaps because they tend to be more selective over grazing than artiodactyls and are generally intolerant of competition. The only times I have seen zebras in a mixed exhibit they were with companions such as giraffe or white rhino which even the most aggressive zebra would not pick a fight with. Anything smaller such as gazelles may be attacked if in an enclosed space.
     
  4. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    It is even better for other animals to be kept separate from zebras, because zebras can carry Equine herpesviruses (and once infected, the virus can't be eliminated from the zebra) that can infect variety of animals (like for example giraffes, and cause many disesease disorders like encephalitis or abortion). :)
     
    Last edited: 1 Jan 2017
  5. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    Since when was abortion a disease?
     
  6. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    It is more like a syndrom of many diseases, thus I wrote disease disorder although disorder may have other definition, but equals to disruption when translated in Macedonian (нарушување or пореметување). Sometimes you can't find appropriate name when you are translating from mother-tongue to English. So I am not actually saying it is a specific disease :)
    So, are you ''medicine'' person? :)
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2017
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  7. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    I think we would call it a misscariage NC which is a natural event, an abortion is an induced or man made event. I hope this helps your all ready very good English:).
     
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  8. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    Oh yes it helped. Thanks.
     
  9. Loxodonta Cobra

    Loxodonta Cobra Well-Known Member

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    There have been many zoos that have in the past attempted to created the famous Serengeti migration herd which is zebra, wildebeest and thomson's gazelle. The zebras killed the gazelles and wildebeest calf's, and harassed the adult wildebeest to the point where the zebras had to be taken out, or have the whole concept removed.
     
  10. jibster

    jibster Well-Known Member

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    At least some zoos have managed to keep these three species (and more) together, at least most of the time. At Columbus Zoo's Heart of Africa, Grant's zebras are kept in the very large main savanna exhibit with three species of gazelles (dama, thomson's, and slender-horned), wildebeest, greater kudu, Masai and reticulated giraffes, and several bird species. On one occasion, I've seen the zebras sequestered in the smaller waterhole exhibit, but on the other 20+ occasions I've viewed the exhibit, the zebras and the other species have all been exhibited together. There has been successful breeding of the dama gazelle as well (though I know the mothers and babies were taken off exhibit for a period after the birth). It may be the space granted to the animals. The Wilds also mixes zebras (t one point, mountain zebras; currently Grevy's zebras) with various other hoofstock with no real problems - again, the space is such that there is plenty of room for the animals to keep to themselves if they so desire. On the other hand, San Diego Zoo has kept all three species of zebras out of the main field exhibits for many years (though at one point, I believe at least mountain and plains zebras were in the main field exhibits), and I know the Disney's Animal Kingdom had problems leading to zebras being kept separately.
     
  11. Mr. Zootycoon

    Mr. Zootycoon Well-Known Member

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    Burgers' Zoo used to have this combination, but nowadays the thomson gazelles are gone (but that might have had more to do with the general difficulties of keeping the species). The wildebeest are still in there (as well as giraffes, waterbuck and roan antilope and rhino) but when they are about to give birth, they are seperated from the zebra. As soon as the young wildebeest are strong and fast enough they are allowed to go on the main paddock.

    Safaripark Beekse Bergen also keeps Grévy's zebra with sable antilope and giraffe (and soon maybe cape buffalo!), but the antilope mother with young are kept separate.
     
  12. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    Another aspect to consider is captive stress. Zoos are tiny areas for most of the animals cage within them and as such segments of their behaviour can differ compared to those raised in the wild. A fine example is the concept of wolf dominance in packs which was based originally on captive wolves and thought to be very strict hierarchy with a dominant male and female at the top and a strict order below. However studies of actual wild packs have shown that its a far more fluid system and more complex and suggests that the captive structure is more a result of captive stresses adjusting how the packs behaved.


    Zebras might well be behaving the same way and a part of their hostile nature is being amplified when kept in captivity - potentially (especially?) when kept with other species (thus cramping their territory even more and increasing competition).
     
  13. Bib Fortuna

    Bib Fortuna Well-Known Member

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    @overread.

    Good Point indeed. Zebras shouldn't be kept in"Captivity"-it's not working.
     
  14. Mr. Zootycoon

    Mr. Zootycoon Well-Known Member

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    That is quite a strong conclusion. This thread points out that combining zebra with other animals is tricky, not that they are not suited to captivity. Zebras usually do quite well, and several (sub)species are established in zoos around the world. If "it's not working", how do you explain the huge number of zebra kept in zoos?
     
  15. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    My point was more that their behaviour between captive and wild differs and that captive conditions can amplify certain characteristics over others.

    This is normal; most animals show adjustments in behaviour between wild and captive (unless the captive area is so large as to be akin to full wilderness).

    The key is understanding those changes (if any - I'm only presenting it as a possibility not as a fact) and behaviours and working with the animals not against them.


    In this case not caging zebra with other species, even those which they would naturally co-habit in the wild, is a way to avoid the problem. There are likely other factors and methods that come into play as well.
     
  16. Mr. Zootycoon

    Mr. Zootycoon Well-Known Member

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    It would be interesting to know if amplified aggression happens in captive zebra herds. Is there any research done on the topic? And is aggression to other species truly absent in wild herds?

    I think the lack of space for other ("weaker") species to avoid them, as well as the zebra having too much spare energy they wouldn't have in the wild, may be other main factors. That would explain some of the cases where zebra are succesfully kept with other species. Burgers' zoo has a huge paddock, plus the facilities to house really vulnerable animals (very young antilope). They even keep several harems of grant's zebra together (each of course having their own separate stable).

    On the topic of behavioural adjustments, it would be great to know if it also happens the other way round. Do zoo animals go back to "normal" wild behaviour when released?
     
  17. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    A quick search turned up a couple of studies indicating that captive zebras exhibit very similar behavioural repertoires to their wild conspecifics. Whilst I don't know anything about aggression towards heterospecifics in the wild, mixed-species combinations are always situational. Success in one context does not necessarily predict success in another.

    My understanding is that these differences in pack dynamics arise because zoos often house(d) unrelated wolves together, whereas wild packs tend to have high relatedness between individuals. The relationship between space and aggression in captive wolf packs is actually relatively weak. In other words, strict hierarchies are due to social factors, rather than space-related.

    Again, it depends. Any you're particularly interested in?
     
  18. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    My thanks for the clarification on wolves GP - I didn't consider relations between wolf bloodlines being a huge factor; but I can certainly see how it could come to be (and how wolves could end up jumbled up within the zoo system- although honestly I'd always thought of them as being one species which would be more family centric in zoos than possibly in the wild so that's a neat surprise to find out!)

    There should be loads of information on this; possibly under re-introduction topics. My general understanding is that for most species (certainly mammals and birds); whilst they can exhibit and retain some wild survival skills in captivity they don't generally know enough to fully survive in the wild.
    That's why your re-introduction individuals are often kept away from public view and have a different program of upbringing and training to try and prepare them for the wild*.
    I suspect it also varies a lot zoo to zoo - but its readily understandable. A lion raised in captivity can survive in the wild; but its going to have a hard time learning how to hunt for the first time in its life as an adult instead of as a cub.

    There's also other factors to consider; primarily awareness of the environment. I think this is why quite a few reintroduction programs have a phase where the animal is brought into a caged environment or limited release environment near to where they are going to be released; or at least in the same wilderness.

    Simply put if you're raised far away and disconnected from your environment you won't grow up nor learn where food or resources are; nor the lay of the land etc... Thus there's a high chance of failure simply due to lacking environmental awareness.





    * I think a big part is also having them retain a high fear/avoidance of humanity and a very low tolerance of them. Since many times its human-animal interactions that result in deaths for the animals.
     
  19. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    I recall a TV programme that showed aggresion in zebras if I get it right, the stallion killed a foal born into his harem soon after birth, as he realised it wasn't his foal. How he knew this remained a mystery but the agression was vey real and powerful to see.
    Also on animal park filmed at Longleat they showed problems with zebra stallions and any young animal born into the huge mixed paddock, I think in that case it was a young eland. Sorry to be so vague, I have seen so many programmes over the years they all merge into one now.
     
  20. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    I always think such things are fascinating, but the older I get the more I wonder how much is really stuff that the animal knows and how much is more a result of other factors. Eg it might be that it was a colt not a filly and the male decided to reduce the competition; etc...

    The number of potential variables is quite large and often I think that we miss some of them when we find one that seems to fit. Especially with tales like this because they stick in the mind much more readily as an example and explanation; and from there they spiral out to self propagate as a fact.

    Of course if its true or not its still interesting; but one area where I really hope there's some in-depth research into; if it is true then it unveils a whole aspect of some animals and their ability to understand parental hereditary in a way which we can't - or of course it could be as simple as the newborn had a physical feature akin to the sires that the aggressive male recognised. Something that we might overlook unless we were very in-tune with zebras (and likely those specific ones).

    There's also the complicating factor of differences in our capacity to sense the world around us. Things we take for granted such as sight, sound and smell are vastly different animal to animal. So we might be oblivious to signals that are very blatant to other species because of how they perceive the world and thus how they interpret it.*



    *I'm reminded of dogs and the colours that they can and can't see easily and how a red ball in grass apparently looks very similar in shade; thus a dog might miss a red ball; meanwhile a blue ball in grass stands out a lot more because they can tell those two colours apart. However from our perspective the dog is just being daft when it can't see the clearly obvious red ball. (note colours in this example might not be correct; the theory is but the specific colours might be different in actuality).

    Heck even just our raised and high vision adjusts how we might see a scene unfold whilst an animal closer to the ground will get a very much altered perception of what they can and can't see; even if they had the same visual system we have.