Rare zebra foal’s birth a first for US zoo

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Malawa with his mum, Keeya. Malawa was born on January 6.
Malawa with his mum, Keeya. Malawa was born on January 6. © Dallas Zoo

The vulnerable Hartmann’s mountain zebra species population has had an increase of one with the birth of a colt foal in the US.

Named Malawa, the youngster was born on January 6 at Dallas Zoo in Texas, to Saba and Keeya. Malawa means “flourishing”, zoo officials said. He and Keeya are doing well, but he is not yet ready to go out in public.

He is the first Hartmann’s mountain zebra born at Dallas Zoo, and is the result of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan.

Hartmann’s zebras are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and are a part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Red List by the International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.

Malawa is the first Hartmann's mountain zebra born at Dallas Zoo.
Malawa, who was born on January 6, is the first Hartmann’s mountain zebra born at Dallas Zoo. © Dallas Zoo

Hartmann’s mountain zebra (Equus zebra ssp. hartmannae) are resident in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa. They are a subspecies of the mountain zebra, which is one of three zebra species.

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.

The wild Hartmann’s mountain zebra population suffered a dramatic loss in the early 1980s after extreme droughts. While the species has recovered to more than 30,000 individuals since then, an event similar to the one in the 1980s is increasingly likely under climate change. This could wipe out more than 30 percent of the wild population, making the zoo populations an important back-up for the conservation of the species.

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