Eye-catching brown and white arrival for Werribee’s Savannah

22 February 2023

Werribee Open Range Zoo has some new brown-and-white stripes on its African Savannah, with the arrival of two very different looking zebra foals.

Savannah keeper Sharlina Burns said the pair – one male and one female – were born within days of each other.

Male Mamello, whose name means patience in the Sotho language, is very small and has brown and white stripes. Female foal Zuka, whose name means to appear suddenly in Swahili language, is a bit bigger and has black and white stripes.

Although black and white is the colour scheme usually associated with zebra, Ms Burns said it can be common for foals to be born brown in colour, too.

“They still have their little baby fluff,” Ms Burns said. “They’ll generally grow into those black and white stripes once they lose their baby fluff.”

Ms Burns said Savannah keepers had been patiently awaiting the arrival of the foals for months, so when they finally arrived it was an exciting moment.

Mamello and Zuka have been settling well into the Plains zebra herd that resides on the Savannah habitat. Both are inquisitive while cautiously sticking close to their mums, and turning the heads of other species on the Savannah.

Ms Burns said in the wild zebras generally breed once a year just before the wet season to ensure they have plenty of food whilst they are growing a baby. Werribee Zoo’s herd follow a similar pattern, although they always have food available.

Ms Burns said both keepers and visitors love seeing the foals take their first wobbly steps and watch them running around the Savannah.

“It’s pretty cool being able to see them take some of those first wobbly steps. They’re usually up and about 10-20 minutes after they are born, so they can walk quite a fair way from where they’re born to where we find them in the morning.”

Plains zebras are native to Africa and are classified as near-threatened in the wild. Their population of 250,000 is in decline, with major threats including competing with agriculture, hunting, war and droughts caused by climate change. The zebras at Werribee Open Range Zoo form part of a regional breeding program to maintain a genetically diverse herd that can support conservation of wild zebra populations.

Zoos Victoria and Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au. Zoos Victoria Members no longer need to book but are required to scan their Membership card for entry.