One of a kind – a unique Cape mountain zebra foal born at Sanbona

25 Jan 2024

The birth of a unique foal at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is a beacon of hope for Cape mountain zebra conservation. Over the last 300 years, hunting and habitat destruction has decimated Cape mountain zebra numbers and isolated the three remaining small populations. Genetic drift over subsequent generations resulted in three genetically distinct stocks. Public and private conservation efforts led to a substantial increase in numbers, which resulted in the Cape mountain zebra being removed from the IUCN Red List of threatened species; except for one of the three stocks, which remained isolated and showed signs of inbreeding.

Until recently, Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, near Calitzdorp, was the only place in the world where zebra of this stock occurred. In 1974, the already small Cape mountain zebra population on Gamkaberg was reduced to only six animals when seven were poached by a local farmer. The expansion of the nature reserve through land purchases by the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa has helped the population to grow, but the genetic problem remains.

To address this, CapeNature and Sanbona developed a genetic rescue plan in consultation with experts from SANBI and the University of Venda. The chosen location for the project was Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. Sanbona, at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, was the ideal zebra genetic mixing bowl. At 62,000 ha, it is already home to a large and growing Cape mountain zebra population. This includes animals of mixed Cradock and Kammanassie stock from De Hoop Nature Reserve, which CapeNature made available to Sanbona in 2016 under a custodianship agreement. In 2021, the agreement was taken a step further when three stallions were translocated from Gamkaberg to a dedicated genetic rescue camp in Sanbona. The following year, a group of Sanbona mares – some of Cradock stock and some of De Hoop origin – was added to the camp.

Although initially stand-offish, the stallions and mares eventually warmed up to one another. Sadly, two of the stallions died – one of unknown causes and the other as the result of a severe tooth abscess. The success of the genetic rescue project then hinged on the performance of the only remaining stallion, five-year old GB42. It has now become clear that he has met his brief. Liesl Vorster, Sanbona’s ecologist, spotted GB42 with a Cradock mare and their precious young offspring. The foal is the only Cape mountain zebra in the world which contains both Cradock and Gamkaberg genes. All eyes will be on this little herd in the hopes of another union that will combine all three genetic stocks and help restore what remains of the genetic diversity that was lost to the species many years ago.

The only Cape mountain zebra foal in the world with a combination of Cradock and Gamkaberg genes. Credit: Liesl Vorster, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve


Related News

Robberg Nature Reserve copyright Scott N Ramsay 49
6 Jun 2024 by CapeNature
World Oceans Day 2024 - understanding our impact on the ocean

The link between oceans and the land is often not well understood. People describe the ocean as that massive water space out there. Little do they know that where they live and how they live actually impacts on this ocean, so much so that they, in their small way, can contribute to a healthy ocean or a polluted ocean.

Waterfalls over rocks scott ramsay
3 Jun 2024
Invitation to comment on the Draft 2023 Western Cape Biodiversity Spatial Plan

Members of the public are invited to submit written comments on the Draft 2023 Western Cape Biodiversity Plan. See full article for all the details.

Wild Card Hero Blog Image 1
1 Jun 2024
All-year-round rewarding experiences at a once-off price!

Experience nature like no other by paying a once-off fee and getting unlimited access to explore CapeNature’s beloved reserves in the Western Cape. Imagine that? CapeNature welcomes all nature lovers to join the Wild Card programme – find the option that suits you, and for the next 365 days, you can visit any reserve with zero access fees.

Kogelberg Nature Reserve
24 May 2024
CapeNature announces exciting winter accommodation special

CapeNature is thrilled to announce its latest winter promotion for all nature enthusiasts. Overnight

visitors can enjoy a massive 40% discount on all accommodations at select CapeNature reserves until

31 July 2024. These winter savings offer the opportunity to experience the breathtaking beauty of the

Western Cape’s natural wonders at a fraction of the cost.

22 May 2024
The Big Biodiversity Challenge

The Western Cape Environmental Education Friends (WCEEF), together with members CapeNature, SANBI, Nature Connect, SANParks and the Two Oceans Aquarium, is thrilled to announce a new competition for children in grades 6 – 9.

21 May 2024
CapeNature attends Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban

CapeNature’s participation at the recent Africa Travel Indaba in Durban marked a significant milestone in promoting sustainable tourism and conservation initiatives. The event, which drew industry leaders and stakeholders from across the globe, provided an excellent platform for CapeNature to showcase its commitment to conserving the Western Cape's natural beauty while fostering economic growth through eco-tourism.