Equus quagga quagga
Formerly considered a separate species, these ungulates used to occur in the plains of South Africa. Unfortunately, in the late 19th century, the Quaggas became extinct. In 1870, a female Quagga has been photographed at the Zoological Society of London's Zoo, which has become the only alive photographed specimen of Quagga. This mammal was an easily recognized sub-species of the Plains zebra with sandy brown coat, white tail as well as vivid, black colored patches on the front part of its body. Stripes on the middle part of the body faded and spaces between them widened. The rear parts of their body were colored in plain brown. The word "Quagga" derives from the Khoikhoi language and is an imitation of this animal's call.
The natural range of these animals covered the Karoo State as well as southern portions of Free State (South Africa). Quaggas' preferred habitat was arid to temperate grasslands, occasionally - wetter pastures.
Habits and lifestyle
Quaggas were highly gregarious creatures, forming large herds. The core of each group consisted of family members that lived with their natal herd throughout their lives. In order to find lost members of the community, the dominant male of the group emitted a special call, responded by other group members. Sick or crippled individuals were cared for by all group members, who used to slow down the pace in order to fit the slowest animal. Each of these herds controlled a rather small territory of 11 square miles (30 sqare km). However, when migrating, they could maintain larger home ranges of more than 232 square miles (600 square km). Quaggas generally led diurnal lifestyle, spending their nighttime hours on short pastures, where they could notice approaching predators. However, during the night, group members used to wake up one by one to graze for about one hour without venturing far from the group. Additionally, they always had at least one herd member of the community, which kept an eye for potential threats while the group slept. Herds used to take regular trips from their sleeping areas to pastures and back, stopping to drink water during the midday.
zeal, crossing, dazzle, cohorts, herd
Diet and nutrition
Quaggas generally maintained a grass-based diet.
These mammals had a polygynous, harem-based mating system, where a single adult male controlled and mated with a group of females. Females could yield offspring at any time of the year with a peak period, occurring in the beginning of summer, in December-January. Healthy females first yielded offspring at 3 - 3.5 years old and used to give birth once every two years. Upon reaching maturity, individuals of both genders would leave their natal group.
Year-round, birth peaks in December-January
Quaggas went extinct in the late 19th century, as a result of excessive and continuous hunting. They attracted hunters primarily for their hides and for consumption. Additionally, they competed with domestic livestock for food and hence were unwanted by local people. At that period of time, only few people knew that this animal was a separate species, which was gradually going extinct. The last individual of this species was killed in the 1870s. The last captive individual died on August 12, 1883, in an Amsterdam zoo.
The Quagga is classified as Extinct (EX) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- Like other species of their sub-genus, these ungulates had a hygiene ritual, which they performed every day. In order to remove parasites, they would stand side by side and nibble on each other's necks, manes and backs. Additionally, oxbirds would ride on the back of these mammals, cleaning their coats.
- Quaggas were the first grazing animals to consume tall grass vegetation as well as wet pastures of their range.
- In the 1980s, a South African taxidermist Reinhold Rau organized the "Quagga Project". He suggested that Quaggas can be re-established through selective breeding of modern-day zebras.
- After about 25 years, multiple foals of this species have been yielded. These animals exhibit well-defined stripes on their heads, although stripes on their rumps are either quite pale or absent. By 2020, the "Quagga Project" is intending to have as many as 500 Quagga-like zebras and introduce 3 free-ranging populations of this species with more than 100 individuals in each population.