Zookeepers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) are celebrating the birth of a Hartmann’s mountain zebra colt foal at the Front Royal, Virginia, facility. It is the first birth of a member of the vulnerable subspecies of mountain zebra at the Smithsonian.
The colt was born overnight on July 2 to six-year-old mother Mackenzie and five-year-old father Rogan, and is the first offspring for both parents. at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute from the Cleveland Zoo in Ohio in October 2018.
The pair were bred following a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP), with scientists considering their genetic makeup, health, personality and temperament, among other factors.
Each zebra is a unique individual, and keepers are looking forward to seeing how the colt’s personality develops. While mother Mackenzie is feisty and a bit standoffish, father Rogan is quirky and easygoing. The colt lives with Mackenzie and an unrelated female, seven-year-old Xolani. Although the colt sticks close by Mackenzie’s side now, keepers say they are excited to see the foal explore his surroundings and watch his curiosity grow. Over the next two months, the colt will start sampling grass and pellets.
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 25,000 individuals left in the wild, the biggest threat to this species’ survival is habitat loss and fragmentation as the result of livestock production and agriculture.
As a public health precaution because of Covid-19, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is temporarily closed to the public. Animal keepers and veterinary staff remain working on-site at the Zoo and SCBI to provide the usual highest quality care for the animals.