Smithsonian loses second rare Hartmann’s mountain zebra

Hartmann's mountain zebra stallion Raylan has died at the age of just four. © Dolores Reed, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Hartmann’s mountain zebra stallion Raylan has died at the age of just four. © Dolores Reed, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

A four-year-old Hartmann’s mountain zebra stallion has died at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the second to be lost at the US establishment within a month.

Raylan was euthanized January 30, following a stomach complaint. That morning hoofstock keepers noticed that Raylan’s abdomen was distended, and he was showing symptoms of abdominal discomfort. SCBI veterinarians treated him with analgesics but his condition did not improve.

They consulted with veterinary equine surgeon Courtney Bolam and veterinary equine anesthesiologist Stephanie Wilkinson of the Piedmont Equine Practice, who performed an emergency exploratory laparotomy. They discovered an entrapment of the small intestine and that a significant portion of the bowel had died due to loss of blood supply. Animal care staff made the decision to humanely euthanize Raylan due to poor prognosis and quality of life. A final pathology report will provide more information in the coming weeks.

The median life expectancy for a male Hartmann’s mountain zebra is about 12 years.

The loss follows the death of Yvonne, a 15-year-old mare, on December 31 last year. Yvonne had been treated for weight loss, and was examined by a veterinarian the day before. Her condition deteriorated further and the decision was made to euthanize her due to poor prognosis and quality of life.

Raylan and Yvonne both arrived at SCBI in June 2016 following an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan breeding recommendation. SCBI researchers are studying this species to develop assisted reproduction techniques vital to the zebras’ conservation. There is now just one remaining Hartmann’s mountain zebra, five-year-old mare Xolani, at the SCBI.

Hartmann’s mountain zebras are a subspecies of the mountain zebra, which is one of three zebra species. Considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Hartmann’s mountain zebras live in dry mountain habitats of Namibia. Unlike other zebra species, Hartmann’s mountain zebras live in small herds, have vertical stripes on their neck and torso and horizontal stripes on their backside, and have a small fold of skin under their chin (called a dewlap). With fewer than 9000 individuals left in the wild, the Hartmann’s mountain zebra faces threats from hunting and habitat loss.

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