International Zebra Day Aims to Help Raise Awareness for the Endangered Grévy's Zebra


Jan. 31 2024, Updated 9:53 a.m. ET

Three zebras drink out of a watering hole.
Source: Getty Images

You’ve probably never heard of International Zebra Day. Perhaps you are similarly unaware of International Rhino Day, which happens on Sept. 22, or International Tiger Day, which always falls on July 29. These holidays aren’t just there for the sake of celebrating the animals themselves.

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Holidays like International Zebra Day are in place to raise conservation awareness and show people why these animals deserve to be recognized — especially the endangered Grévy's zebra.

Group of zebras in tall grass.
Source: Getty Images
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Why was International Zebra Day founded?

International Zebra Day takes place every Jan. 31. According to the Nikolaev Zoo in Ukraine, the holiday was founded by a consortium of conservation organizations, including the Smithsonian's National Zoo and the Conservation Biology Institute.

The goal of the day was to help raise awareness about the zebra’s plight so that they can be preserved and protected.

Three zebras eat grass in a field.
Source: Getty Images
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Are zebras endangered?

There are three living zebra species: the Grévy's zebra, the plains zebra, and the mountain zebra.

The Grévy's zebra is considered Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, as the population has gone down by about 54 percent over the past three decades, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

That said, the Grévy's zebra, which is found in Ethiopia and the northern regions of Kenya, does currently have a stable population trend, per the iUCN.

Plains zebras are classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened, with the subspecies' population trend described as decreasing. Plains zebras are found in more than a dozen African countries, including Botswana, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe.

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Then there's the mountain zebra, which the IUCN classifies as Vulnerable, with an increasing population trend.

The mountain zebra is found in South Africa, Angola, and Namibia.

A wide shot of wild zebras and other animals.
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Where can I donate to help zebras?

There are a number of animal conservation organizations out there today. Some, like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are in the business of wild animal conservation all across the planet.

There are also some zebra-specific organizations, like Grévy's Zebra Trust. Members of this organization work hard to protect zebra habitats and keep zebras safe. There's also the African Wildlife Foundation, which specifically works to protect animals in Africa.

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One zebra stands on dirt.
Source: Getty Images

Here are a few of our favorite zebra fun facts.

1. Zebra stripes control body temperature.

According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Natural History, zebra stripes are used to control body temperature. They can also aid in camouflage by allowing the zebra to blend in with the tall, wavy lines of their grassland homes.

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2. A herd of zebras is known as a dazzle.

Not all zebras live in large dazzles, however. Plains zebras live in large family groups, usually led by a dominant male, while Grévy's zebra tend to form individual units consisting of mares and foals. Regardless of dazzle size, zebras are highly sociable and follow each other everywhere.

3. Some zebras have spots instead of stripes.

Zebra foals are born with brown and white stripes or even spots in some cases. The black and white pattern you see in adult zebras only appears as they grow. In 2019, Forbes reported on a beautiful baby zebra, who was born in Kenya with a black coat with white polka dots.

4. Zebras can have anywhere from 25 to 80 (or more!) stripes on their bodies.

According to Exploration Junkie, a plains zebra typically has 26 to 55 stripes; a Grévy’s can have 80 or more; and a mountain zebra usually has between 30 and 45 stripes.

This article, originally published on Jan. 25, 2021, has been updated.

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