Mountain zebra conservation had a close shave back in the 1930s, when numbers sank perilously low. But with the help of government, a few farmers and a dint of luck, their numbers have risen. Now authorities have trans-located them to new parks to ensure their survival.

Did you know?

A group of mountain zebras is called a dazzle, a zeal, or a crossing.

Cape mountain zebras are quite singular little beasts. Found only in South Africa, they are unmistakable: compact, with chocolate-orange muzzles and an intriguing grid-iron pattern on their backs.

Unlike the more common Burchell's subspecies, mountain zebras have stripes all the way down to their hocks. They also have a strange dewlap or wattle hanging below their necks, and outsize ears.

Appealing as they are, mountain zebra conservation almost failed. In the 1930s, the population dipped below 100 individuals. Stock farmers would kill them because they were considered something of a pest

Mountain zebra conservation truly started when authorities bought a few small farms near the Karoo town of Cradock, their last stronghold. In 1937, the Mountain Zebra National Park was proclaimed, on only 1 712 hectares of land.

All the land contained was six mountain zebras (and only one female among them). By 1950, the mare and three stallions had died. The conservation of mountain zebra seemed a lost cause. Fortunately a farmer living next to the park had another 11 mountain zebras on his farm, and he exchanged them with the park in return for a number of blesbok.

The population crept up slowly to 25 by 1964, which was when farmer Paul Michau sold his farm to the national park. He had protected another 30 mountain zebras on his land, and with this boost, the population started to climb steadily.

The first five mountain zebras were trans-located to De Hoop Nature Reserve in 1975 and from then on, they have been trans-located to other mountainous parks every year. They now number over a 1000, and this charming zebra species is a few steps back from the brink.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mountain Zebra National Park
Tel: +27 (0)48 881 2427
Email: mountainzebra@sanparks.org

How to get here

Cradock, the epicentre of mountain zebra conservation, is a two-hour drive from Port Elizabeth (which has an airport). Trains also run past the town, as well as tour buses.

Around the area

River-rafting on the Great Fish River. Graaff-Reinet, an architectural gem, is only 90 minutes away.

Get around

Within the Mountain Zebra National Park, you can either self-drive or book a game drive.

Length of stay

Stay for two nights, at least. This is a delightfully scenic park.

What to pack

The climate can be extreme here, so bring plenty of warm things in winter (when snow is not uncommon) and cool clothes for summer. Other than that, a camera and binoculars.

Where to stay

The Mountain Zebra National Park has a number of options. There's camping, chalets and the original old farmhouse has been restored as a beautiful self-catering lodge. There are also delightful guesthouses in the nearby town of Cradock.