Acta Theriologica

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 111–120 | Cite as

Social structure, vigilance and behaviour of plains zebra (Equus burchellii): a 5-year case study of individuals living on a managed wildlife reserve

  • Heather I. Simpson
  • Sean A. Rands
  • Christine J. Nicol
Original Paper

Abstract

Most studies of plains zebra (Equus burchellii) have focused on population ecology and have not included long-term observations of identified individuals. Over a 5-year period, we studied the crepuscular activities of 13 individual zebras within a focal group held within a managed game reserve. We also examined individual residency within the group by recording births, mortalities and longevity of group membership by adults. Residency of individuals living in other groups on the reserve was similarly monitored to examine variability in social structure within this closed population over an extended period of time. Stable, female groups were the mainstay of group sociality with male mean residency at 31.6 months being variable in length or even absent. Social interactions across all categories of zebras were free from aggression. Despite an absence of non-human predators, the proportion of dusk time budget allocated to vigilance was high, at 41% for males during periods when they accompanied stable female groups and 12% for females during these same periods. Female vigilance increased significantly to 19% when males were not resident. Females spent 70% of the time grazing and males just 36%. Due to its long-term nature, we concluded this study established a base line for plains zebra activity that could assist in understanding the factors that influence the successful management and conservation of healthy populations.

Keywords

Behaviour Hunting Social structure Vigilance Zebras 

References

  1. Andersen KF (1992) Size design and interspecific interactions as restrictors of natural behaviours in multi-species exhibits 1. Activity and intraspecific interactions of plains zebra (Equus burchellii). Appl Anim Behav 34:157–174. doi:10.1016/SO168-1591(05)80122-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Archie EA, Morrison TA, Foley CAH, Moss CJ, Alberts SC (2006) Dominance rank relationships among wild female African elephants, Loxodonta africana. Anim Behav 71:117–127. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2005.03.023 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berger J (1986) Wild horses of the Great Basin: social competition and population size. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  4. Blumstein DT (2002) Moving to suburbia: ontogenetic and evolutionary consequences of life on predator-free islands. J Biogeogr 29:685–692. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.2002.00717.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brooks CJ, Harris S (2008) Directed movement and orientation across a large natural landscape by zebras, Equus burchelli antiquorum. Anim Behav 76:277–285. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.02.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burger J, Gochfeld M (1994) Vigilance in African mammals: differences amongst mothers, other females and males. Behav 131:153–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Byers JA (1998) American pronghorn: social adaptations and the ghosts of predators past. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  8. Caro T (2005) Antipredator defenses in birds and mammals. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Clutton-Brock TH (1991) The evolution of parental care. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  10. Coss RG, Gusé KL, Poran NS, Smith DG (1993) Development of antisnake defenses in California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi): II. Microevolutionary effects of relaxed selection from rattlesnakes. Behaviour 124:137–164. doi:10.1163/156853993X00542 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duncan P, Billings W, Golley F, Lange O, Olsen J, Remmert H (1992) Horses and grasses: the nutritional ecology of Equids and their impact on the Carmargue. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Fischhoff IR, Sundaresan SR, Cordingley J, Larkin HM, Sellier M-J, Rubenstein DI (2007a) Social relationships and reproductive state influence leadership roles in movements of plains zebra, Equus burchellii. Anim Behav 73:825–831. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.10.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fischhoff IR, Sundaresan SR, Cordingley J, Rubenstein DI (2007b) Habitat use and movements of plains zebra (Equus burchelli) in response to predation danger from lions. Behav Ecol 18:725–729. doi:10.1093/beheco/arm036 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fischhoff IR, Dushoff J, Sundaresan SR, Cordingley JE, Rubenstein DI (2009) Reproductive status influences group size and persistence of bonds in male plains zebra (Equus burchelli). Behav Ecol 63:1035–1043. doi:10.1007/s00265-009-0723-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ford JC, Stroud PC (1993) Captive management strategies for natural behaviour of Chapman’s zebra Equus burchelli chapmani at Werribee Zoological Park. Intl Zoo Yearbook 32:1–6. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.1993.tb03507.x Google Scholar
  16. Fraser AF (1992) The behaviour of the horse. CABI, WallingfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Funston PJ, Mills MGL, Biggs HC (2001) Factors affecting the hunting success of male and female lions in the Kruger National Park. J Zool 253:419–431. doi:10.1017/S0952836901000395 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gasaway WC, Gasaway KT, Berry HH (1996) Persistent low densities of plains ungulates in Etosha National Park, Namibia: testing the food-regulating hypothesis. Can J Zool 74:1556–1572. doi:10.1139/z96-170 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Georgiadis N, Hack M, Turpin K (2003) The influence of rainfall on zebra population dynamics: implications for management. J Appl Ecol 40:125–136. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2664.2003.00796.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grange S, Duncan P, Gaillard JM, Sinclair AR, Gogan PJ, Packer C, Hofer H, East M (2004) What limits the Serengeti zebra population? Oecologia 140:523–532. doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1567-6 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hack MA, East R, Rubenstein DI (2002) Status and action plan for the plains zebra (Equus burchellii). In: Moehlman PD (ed) Equids: zebras, asses and horses: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, pp 43–71Google Scholar
  22. Isbell LA, Young TP (2002) Ecological models of female social relationships in primates: similarities, disparities, and some directions for future clarity. Behaviour 139:177–202. doi:10.1163/156853902760102645 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Klingel H (1967) Soziale Organisation und Verhalten freilebender Steppenzebras. Z Tierpsychol 24:580–624. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1967.tb00807.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Klingel H (1969a) The social organisation and population ecology of the plains zebra (Equus quagga). Zool Afr 4:249–263Google Scholar
  25. Klingel H (1969b) Reproduction in the plains zebra, Equus burchelli boehmi: behaviour and ecological factors. J Reprod Fertil Suppl 6:339–345Google Scholar
  26. Knowles TG, Green LE (2002) Multilevel statistical models allow simultaneous consideration of both individual and group effects. Appl Anim Behav Sci 77:335–336. doi:10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00065-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McDonnell SM, Poulin A (2002) Equid play ethogram. Appl Anim Behav Sci 78:263–290. doi:10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00112-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mills MGL, Shenk TM (1992) Predator–prey relationships: the impact of lion predation on wildebeest and zebra populations. J Anim Ecol 61:693–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Monard A-M, Duncan P (1996) Consequences of natal dispersal in female horses. Anim Behav 52:565–579. doi:10.1006/anbe.1996.0198 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moss CJ (2000) Elephant memories: thirteen years in the life of an elephant family (second edition). University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  31. Ncube H, Duncan P, Grange S, Cameron EZ, Barnier F, Ganswindt A (2011) Pattern of faecal 20-oxopregnane and oestrogen concentrations during pregnancy in wild plains zebra mares. Gen Comp Endocrinol 172:358–362. doi:10.1016/j.ygcen.2011.03.027 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Neuhaus P, Ruckstuhl KE (2002) The link between sexual dimorphism, activity budgets, and group cohesion: the case of the plains zebra (Equus burchelli). Can J Zool 80:1437–1441. doi:10.1139/Z02-126 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nicol CJ, Badnell-Waters AJ (2005) Suckling behaviour in domestic foals and the development of abnormal oral behaviour. Anim Behav 70:21–29. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2004.10.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Penzhorn BL (1984) A long-term study of social organisation and behaviour of Cape mountain zebras Equus zebra zebra. Z Tierpsychol 64:97–146. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1984.tb00355.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Petit O, Bon R (2010) Decision-making processes: the case of collective movements. Behav Process 84:635–647. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2010.04.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pluháček J, Bartoš L (2000) Male infanticide in captive plains zebra, Equus burchelli. Anim Behav 59:689–694. doi:10.1006/anbe.1999.1371 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pluháček J, Bartoš L, Čulík L (2006) High-ranking mares of captive plains zebra Equus burchelli have greater reproductive success than low-ranking mares. Appl Anim Behav Sci 99:315–329. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2005.11.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rasbash J, Charlton C, Browne WJ, Healy M, Cameron B (2005) MLwiN version 2.2. Centre for Multilevel Modelling, University of Bristol, BristolGoogle Scholar
  39. Rubenstein DI (1994) The ecology of female social behavior in horses, zebras and asses. In: Jarman P, Rossiter A (eds) Animal societies: individuals, interactions and organization. Kyoto University Press, Kyoto, pp 13–28Google Scholar
  40. Rubenstein DI, Hack MA (2004) Natural and sexual selection and the evolution of multi-level societies: insights from zebras with comparisons to primates. In: Kappeler PM, van Schaik CP (eds) Sexual selection in primates: new and comparative perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 266–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schilder MBH (1992) Stability and dynamics of group composition in a herd of captive plains zebra. Ethology 90:145–154. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1992.tb00829.x Google Scholar
  42. Schilder MBH, Boer PL (1987) Ethological investigations on a herd of plains zebra in a safari park: time-budgets, reproduction and food competition. Appl Anim Behav Sci 18:45–56. doi:10.1016/0168-1591(87)90253-X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smuts GL (1976a) Population characteristics of Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli antiquorum, H. Smith, 1841) in the Kruger National Park. SA J Wildl Res 6:99–112Google Scholar
  44. Smuts GL (1976b) Reproduction in the zebra mare (Equus burchelli antiquorum) from the Kruger National Park. Koedoe 19:89–132Google Scholar
  45. Stankowich T (2008) Ungulate flight responses to human disturbance: a review and meta-analysis. Biol Conserv 141:2159–2173. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2008.06.026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Valeix M, Fritz H, Loveridge AJ, Davidson Z, Hunt JE, Murindagomo F, Macdonald DW (2009) Does the risk of encountering lions influence African herbivore behaviour at waterholes? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 63:1483–1494. doi:10.1007/s00265-009-0760-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. van Dierendonck MC, Bandi N, Batdorj D, Dügerlham S, Munkhtsog B (1996) Behavioural observations of reintroduced Takhi or Przewalski horses (Equus ferus przewalskii) in Mongolia. Appl Anim Behav Sci 50:95–114. doi:10.1016/0168-1591(96)01089-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Waring G (2003) Horse behavior, 2nd edn. Noyes, NorwichGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams JM, Pusey AE, Carlis JV, Farm BP, Goodall J (2002) Female competition and male territorial behaviour influence female chimpanzees’ ranging patterns. Anim Behav 63:347–360. doi:10.1006/anbe.2001.1916 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather I. Simpson
    • 1
  • Sean A. Rands
    • 2
  • Christine J. Nicol
    • 2
  1. 1.Natural Animal Veterinary CentreCarmarthenUK
  2. 2.School of Veterinary ScienceUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations