What is the first animal we think about when we think about stripes? For myself and for most of us, the first animal that comes to mind is the Zebra.
At Sabi Sabi we have the Plains Zebra, which is the most common Zebra throughout Africa. The most identifying feature of the Plains Zebra is the brown shadow stripes in between the black and white stripes.
Now why would an animal have bright black and white stripes all over its body? Don’t get me wrong its beautiful and intriguing to watch a dazzle of zebra in an open plain or just to see a big majestic stallion on its own showing off its beauty, but the first thing that we normally think about is that it must be an easy target for predators. Most animals seem to fit in the bush perfectly, their own coloration matching the colours of the bush, but in the zebra’s case, black and white seem to stick out like a sore thumb.
Lions are one of the main predators that will go after a zebra, they have less cone cells in their eyes than what we as humans have therefore see less colour than what we do. This makes a zebra’s bright stripes seem less prominent to them than what it does to us.
It is believed that when a zebra stands in front of a dark background the black stripes blends in with the background and only the white stripes stick out, which does not resemble a solid, three, dimensional animal making it difficult for the lion or lions to pick up on. It is also believed that when a herd of zebra runs away from a predator, all the stripes blend into one, creating a dazzling effect, making it very difficult for a predator to isolate an individual out of the herd.
That is why we call a herd of Zebra a dazzle.