It's not all cheerful in the bush

24th March 2013
See UPDATE below.

I was out driving yesterday and came across a group of zebras feeding in the long grasses just by the road. One male was separate from the rest of the herd and revealed, as he turned towards us, a dreadful wound on his hindquarters.

The bright, fresh, red flesh stood out dramatically against an otherwise green environment, and we could immediately see how distressed the animal was. He was trying to feed but the ever-attendant Oxpeckers were pecking at the wound and causing him obvious pain.

We drove a little closer to try to see what might have caused such an injury. The only two likely explanations are that he was wounded by a lion, or injured in a fight with another male. If a lion had jumped on his back, it could easily have caused such damage, but since the wound was still quite fresh, we would expect to see small injuries on the left hindquarters from the lion's claws. There didn't appear to be any injury on the left side, which probably rules out predators as an explanation, but I find it hard to believe that another male zebra, even with the canine teeth which they have for fighting, could have done that.

We will watch to see how it heals, and hope that it doesn't get infected in this hot, wet weather. Some people think that the action of Oxpeckers might aid the healing process, as they feed on maggots and rotten flesh, while others think that they prevent a wound from scabbing over. Perhaps this will be a chance to watch and understand which might be true. In the meantime, he's fighting off the oxpeckers with swishes of his tail, and lunges with his teeth.


I found him again on safari this morning with guests Brian from Bolton and Jacques & Paulette from Belgium. While he's not completely better, and he's still limping quite a bit, he's certainly better than he was. The infection seems to have cleared up and the flies have given up swarming around him. Perhaps the new stripes will even match the old ones!

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