Melbourne Zoo

Zebra

At Melbourne Zoo you can see these sociable and playful animals at close quarters.

Zebras are classed as ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’). The population trend is thought to be stable. Although zebras are numerous, they are vulnerable to loss of habitat and, like many species, to hunting. 

Your visit helps to fight species extinction. Visiting the zebras at Melbourne Zoo is an opportunity not only to see these delightful animals, but also to learn about the threats to African species, what the international community is doing to try to conserve these species, and how Zoos Victoria is contributing to the fight. 

A Plains Zebra has rather broad stripes, especially towards its rump, with colour ranging from black to dark brown. There may be a brown ‘shadow stripe’ between a black and white stripe. 

Other zebra species differ: Grevy’s Zebra has narrow, closely spaced stripes over most of the body right to the hooves, and Mountain Zebras have faint stripes between darker stripes. 

Plains Zebras are social animals. They form family groups of stallion, several mares and foals, and unattached males form bachelor groups. In seasonally dry areas such as the Serengeti in Tanzania, small families of Plains Zebras gather to form large herds. Staying together as families within the herd, they travel up to 800 km each year in an annual migratory trek that returns to the Serengeti.

Because of the prevalence of predators, Plains Zebras are restless and alert, and very vocal. They make a barking sound. There is always a family member awake to watch out for predators.

Did you know?
  • It was previously thought that zebras were white with black stripes. However, embryological evidence shows that the animal’s background colour is actually black and the white stripes and bellies are additions
  • Zebras have proven difficult to train for riding since they have an unpredictable nature and tendency to panic under stress, keeping their wild nature
  • Like horses, zebras sleep standing up, and only sleep when other zebras are around to warn them of predators