Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
It’s time to earn your stripes! Enter the world of one of the savanna’s most dazzling and iconic creatures.
Have you “herd” where you can spot a striped zebra?
Zebras at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Walt Disney World Resort is home to 3 unique types of zebra—Grevy’s zebras, Hartmann’s zebras and Grant’s zebras. Look for Grevy’s zebras trekking along the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. Catch Hartmann’s zebras gracefully grazing on the lush savannas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. And, spot Grant’s zebras roaming the grasslands of the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and the savannas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Zebras in the Wild
You’ll find zebras in large herds and pocketed populations across sub-Saharan Africa. While they’re usually associated with African shrublands and savannas, their preferred habitat and native range actually varies between subspecies.
Grevy’s zebras have a very limited geographic range, existing in fragmented herds across the patchy grasslands of eastern Africa.
Hartmann’s zebras, a subspecies of mountain zebras, fittingly call the dry, stony mountains and hills of Namibia in southwest Africa home. Smaller secluded populations of Hartmann’s zebras can also be found in South Africa.
Grant’s zebras, a subspecies of plains, or common zebra, can be found across the wooded savannas and plains of eastern and southern Africa.
Threats to Zebras
The different species of zebra are widespread and diverse, making it only natural that each species of zebra faces its own unique challenges in the wild.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists Grevy’s zebras as “endangered.” Grevy’s zebras depend upon habitats that are in close proximity to a permanent source of water. Decreasing access to water, due to human activity and sport hunting, is the major cause of population decline for them.
Similarly, IUCN lists mountain zebras, such as the Hartmann’s zebra, as “vulnerable” due to hunting for their iconic coat. Increased cattle farming and agricultural production continues to limit this species’ much needed access to water.
Grant’s zebras face problems related to overhunting and habitat loss, their geographic range is expansive. Grant’s zebras have proven to be a hardy species with an impressive ability to form established populations in adverse conditions. They have even been noted to recover quickly from intermittent population declines.
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of zebras and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for zebras and how you can help!
“Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people, it’s a matter that concerns all of us… If we will use our riches wisely, if we will protect our wildlife, and preserve our lakes and streams, these things will last us for generations to come.” – Walt Disney
The pressure that zebras face in the wild could make a savanna without stripes a reality.
No Home on the Range
Habitat loss is a pressing problem for zebras. As more land is allocated to farming and raising livestock, it becomes increasingly difficult for zebras to access food without coming into conflict with humans or barriers made by humans. In particular, cattle farming has contributed to the limited amount of grazing land for zebras.
Not a Drop to Drink
Local communities rely upon freshwater just as much as their striped neighbors. Increased human development, agriculture and cattle farming create human livelihoods that are dependent upon, and increase the demand for, the same freshwater resources that zebras need to survive. Deterred by the presence of humans and barred by the physical barriers that human development creates, it is becoming increasingly difficult for zebras to find a suitable habitat that meets their needs.
Not Just Black and White
While one may think zebras are hunted only for sport because of their beautiful coats, it’s not quite that simple. Zebras are also hunted for both food and medicinal purposes; however, sport hunting was one of the first threats to zebra populations throughout Africa and led to the initial decline in numbers.
Disney Is Helping Zebras in the Wild
Since its founding in 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) has contributed more than $40 million dollars to support conservation programs in more than 115 countries around the world. DCF has contributed to conservation and community engagement efforts that empower local communities to protect zebras.
Using cutting-edge research and knowledge of the zebra’s natural history, Disney's animal care experts keep herds happy.
Graze for Days
For the zebras, Disney’s animal care experts disperse their meals and additional enrichment throughout the exhibit to suit their natural grazing habits. Much like their wild counterparts, the zebras at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge enjoy a diet rich in vegetation and fresh greens. The wide variety of plants that the zebras are provided compares to the bountiful options they would encounter in the wild.
Zebras are provided with daily enrichment to encourage natural behaviors and stimulate the senses. Enrichment often takes the form of special snacks placed throughout the exhibit to encourage the zebras to forage and graze. Other types of enrichment involve introducing new scents into the air for the zebras to investigate or new objects for the zebras to manipulate.
Stationing and Training
Our training sessions include the use of favorite foods to encourage our zebras to learn behaviors that help Disney’s animal care experts monitor the health of every zebra and make check-ups a stress-free experience. Some of the skills our zebras learn include stationing on a scale so their weight can be recorded and trained behaviors to improve hoof health.
Find out how a zebra’s stripes are more than meets the eye and discover other zebra facts that will astound you.
One of a Kind
Just like a human’s fingerprints, no 2 sets of zebra stripes are the same. Researchers can even tell individual zebras apart based upon these unique black and white patterns, “reading” them more or less like a barcode. The thickness of the stripes as well as their location on the hindquarters, nose and belly can even help indicate which zebra subspecies it is.
A Dazzling Group
Zebras congregate in large herds referred to as “dazzles” for protection. They will even form a mixed species herd with other animals, such as wildebeests and giraffes, from time to time. Why? Wildebeests tend to move more slowly than zebras, giving zebras a chance to escape from a speedy predator that will choose to go after a slower meal. Giraffes, on the other hand, can utilize their towering height to spot a hungry lion from farther away. By partnering up with these other species, zebras are able to avoid predators and increase their chances of survival.
Stripes aren’t just fashionable, they’re functional. A zebra’s stripes are believed to act as an optical illusion for predators. When zebras stand together in a group, it becomes more difficult for predators to differentiate between individuals. Unable to distinguish a single target, a hungry lion or hyena is ultimately deterred from attacking.
Built-In Bug Spray
A zebra’s stripes don’t just have the potential to deter predators. Many scientists believe they may also deter flies. A zebra’s coat is notably thinner than that of many other savanna-dwelling creatures, making it easier for biting, disease-carrying flies to reach the skin below. However, flies navigate the air by perceiving the light reflecting off of surfaces and hone in on solid dark surfaces to land on. The alternating pattern created by the stripes may disorient flies and prevents them from going in for a landing.
You don’t want to get caught in this kind of traffic! Zebras are participants in one of the world’s largest animal migrations across the Serengeti. The Serengeti, a vast ecosystem stretching between Kenya and Tanzania, is an African superhighway for thousands of gazelles, wildebeests and zebras who relocate to find better grazing.
Mother Knows Best
Newborn zebras may be able to stand and canter a mere 20 minutes after being born, but they still have a long way to go before they are independent from their mother. A young zebra will imprint on its mother’s scent and memorize the unique markings on its mother’s hind legs so he or she can tell her apart from the rest of the herd. Mothers will refuse to care for any young other than their own, so imprinting is incredibly important for young zebras to survive to maturity. Mothers will give birth away from the herd, to ensure their young imprints on them.
Legs with a Kick
Zebras possess strong, powerful hind legs that serve as a primary defense from predators. Easily reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) and possessing impressive stamina, a zebra can escape a predator through speed alone and, if that should fail, deliver a swift kick to the face of their pursuer to put an end to the chase.
Neigh Is for Horses
Unlike their relatives, zebras cannot make the “neighing” sound associated with horses and other species related to horses called equids. However, they can communicate with a spectrum of vocalizations, ranging from barks and snorts to braying. These vocalizations allow zebras to express a wide range of emotion. Zebras also express their emotions through facial expressions. These facial expressions can be differentiated based upon the position of the zebra’s ears and how wide open the zebra’s eyes are.
When it comes to zebra conservation, there really are no gray areas to cover— it’s pretty “black and white”!
You and the Zoo
By visiting an accredited zoo, you’re supporting conservation efforts for zebras and other animals. Many zoos play an irreplaceable role in conducting research that increases our understanding of rare and endangered animals, ultimately providing humans better ways to protect and cohabitate with them in their natural habitats.
Be in the Know About H2O
Freshwater is a precious resource for zebras and humans alike. Here are 2 small changes that you can make to use water responsibly and make a difference for zebras, local wildlife and local communities: turn off running water when it’s not in use and water your lawn sparingly.
Visit the Websites Below
The Walt Disney Company is committed to protecting the planet and using resources wisely. We conserve nature and inspire kids and families to join us in caring for the planet. Explore the websites below to see how Disney is helping to make the world a better place and learn how you can make a difference, too!
“I have learned from the animal world. What everyone will learn, who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney