Readers’ wildlife photos

March 14, 2017 • 7:30 am

Today’s photos come from reader John Conoboy, and from Africa. His notes are indented:

February is the time of the great migration. I am told that the Serengeti ecosystem is defined by the wildebeest migration patterns. It is hard to get a single photo at eye level that gives the amazing scope of the animal movement. There were areas where we could see thousands of animals stretched along the plains for miles. Watching this amazing spectacle reminded me of accounts of early travelers on the Great Plains of the US relating how they watched a massive herd of bison taking hours to cross a stream. Wildebeest in Tanzania are the blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus).

The second most common animal taking part is the plains or Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli). We saw a lot of very young zebra, and one lion killed carcass very near our lodging, reminding us of why we needed an escort at night to get back to our tent.

I told our guide about the new research into zebra stripes and biting flies, but he clings to the idea that the stripes confuse predators who cannot differentiate an individual in a group. I sent him a link to your WEIT post about zebra stripes, but he has not responded. [JAC: Note that reading this site give you insights that haven’t yet reached safari guides!]

Here are a variety of pictures of wildebeest and zebras. It was common when our vehicle came up near a group of animals that they would turn away and we joked a lot about pictures of animal butts. The image of the four zebra looking toward the camera was the result of a pride of lions on the other side of our vehicle. The zebra are keeping a close watch on what the lions were doing. Also included is a picture of a zebra that has recently lost its tail, perhaps to a hyena.


10 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Well for the tailless zebra, I hope the stripes & flies thing works, as the poor beastie has nothing to swish them away!

  2. Wonderful pictures and commentary! *Sigh* If ever I get the time and money to go on an overseas vacation, this sort of thing would be near the top of my list.
    Perhaps I missed something, but isn’t it possible for both views about zebra stripes to be true? That they could confuse both biting flies and big predators?

    1. As I recall from the study, they tested this and found it was not the case.

      I thought about this as I watched both lion and cheetah hunting. And then I thought about all the TV shows I have seen of predators stalking herds of prey animals. The hunter(s) wait patiently to see which animals become separated from the group or lag behind and then go after the individual. Or in some cases they may try to spook the herd so when the prey run off, the week members are left lagging behind and can be picked off. Anybody else have thoughts on this?

    2. I agree. It would seem that anything that has several “positive survival effects” would be more selected for than a character that has only a single effect.

  3. It appears that the writer and I were recently near the same place at about the same time in Tanzania. The Great Migration generally has the zebra at the front and the wildebeest bringing up the rear. The story (as related by our driver/guide, I have no idea if it’s true) is that the wildebeest know when to go and the zebra know where and there is some kind of communication between them, like:
    Wildebeest: Hey Zebra, do you remember that place we went to last year?
    Zebra: Sure
    Wildebeest: Well, it’s time to go again
    And off they go. I did see some (renegade?) wildebeest near the front and some (navigationally challenged?) zebra at the back but generally not.

    1. We were there from Feb. 6-12. If that is when you were there, we probably were crossing paths and never knew it. I had not heard the story of the zebra/wildebeest.

  4. Pedantically, those are not Burchell’s zebra, which is a subspecies of the plains zebra (Equus quagga). In the Serengeti they would be Grant’s zebra (E.q. boehmi). Burchell’s z. now has a very restricted range in the south of the continent. The true Equus quagga quagga was the Quagga – also from the south and now extinct. Pedantry mode off: those are great photos

    1. Thanks for clarification. I got the info from a website about serengeti wildlife, that identified them as Burchell’s.

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