Hogle Zoo in Utah has welcomed a Hartmann’s mountain zebra colt foal to its herd, and the new arrival has been named Zion.
He was born on the evening of January 15, and his name was chosen in a public contest that had thousands of entries, zoo officials said.
Keepers looked over the list of entries and settled on Zion for a few reasons. Zion means ‘highest point’ and the natural habitat of the Hartmann’s mountain zebra is at an elevation in South Africa higher than Salt Lake City.
“We also love Zion National Park,” said African Savanna keeper Michelle Olandese of the south-west Utah nature preserve.
“Wherever Zion ends up with the [Species Survival Plan], he’ll have a connection to Utah.”
The Species Survival Plan program began in 1981 as a co-operative population management and conservation program for selected species in zoos and aquariums in North America. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.
Currently, 107 SSPs covering 155 individual species are administered by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, whose membership includes 205 accredited zoos and aquariums throughout North America.
Zion’s father is Hogle’s resident stallion Scooby, and his mum is Ziva, who was born at Louisville Zoo and came to Hogle Zoo in 2014 as a yearling. Also arriving that year was Zoey from San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and stallion Ziggy, from the Fossil Rim Wildlife Centre. The three formed the nucleus of Hogle’s Hartmann’s mountain zebra breeding program. Three filly foals were born in 2017 and 2018, Poppy (Ziggy x Zoey), Zibby (Ziggy x Ziva) and Clementine (Ziggy x Zoey).
Scooby, who was born at Disney Animal Kingdom, is five.
The species is classed as threatened; 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 zoo populations an important back-up for the conservation of the species.