Ze­bra good for cat­tle graz­ing

Any­one who sees ‘own­er­less’ male near Ma­clean­town must con­tact SPCA

Daily Dispatch - - News - JOHN HAR­VEY

A young free-rang­ing ze­bra male that has been spot­ted graz­ing hap­pily along­side cat­tle in the Ma­clean­town area could po­ten­tially be ben­e­fi­cial to live­stock.

The ze­bra, es­ti­mated to be be­tween two and three years old, has been roam­ing from farm to farm in the past few months, but this week ven­tured onto the N6.

Con­cerns have been raised over the dan­ger the an­i­mal poses to traf­fic, as well as its own well-be­ing.

Res­i­dents and pri­vate game re­serve farm staff have no idea where the ze­bra comes from, nor has any­one laid claim to it.

Lo­cal res­i­dent Ma­ree Oosthuizen Lot­ter­ing has ap­pealed for the stal­lion to be darted or ac­com­mo­dated by one of the Stut­ter­heim game farm­ers. On Fri­day, Lot­ter­ing said she had again seen the ze­bra but it had moved away from the road and was now be­hind fenc­ing.

King Wil­liam’s Town SPCA spokesper­son An­nette Rade­meyer said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had still not been ap­proached about the ze­bra, but en­cour­aged res­i­dents to do so.

“If some­body does phone us about it, we will def­i­nitely act, ei­ther by get­ting a wildlife vet to dart it or re­lo­cat­ing it.

“We would call na­ture con­ser­va­tion to place it in a na­ture re­serve,” she said.

Mean­while, the pres­ence of the mys­te­ri­ous equid could be a boon for cat­tle dur­ing East Lon­don’s rainy sea­son, which runs from Oc­to­ber to April.

In 2011, ecol­o­gist Wil­fred Odadi, a lec­turer in the de­part­ment of nat­u­ral re­sources at Kenya’s Eger­ton Uni­ver­sity, and his co-au­thors, con­ducted re­search that showed that when ze­bra grazed along­side cat­tle in the rainy sea­son, the cat­tle gained more weight. The rea­son­ing is that be­cause the grass grows faster and taller dur­ing the wet sea­son, it soon goes “off”, mak­ing it un­ap­petis­ing to cat­tle.

The ze­bras then re­move the dead stem grass, so the cat­tle are then left eat­ing the more nu­tri­tious fresh shoots.

This re­sults in greater weight gain for cat­tle.

It was a dif­fer­ent story when it came to the dry sea­son, how­ever, when cat­tle and ze­bras com­peted over all avail­able grass.

Speak­ing to the Dis­patch via e-mail yes­ter­day, Odadi said: “In ad­di­tion, my other study pub­lished in Evo­lu­tion­ary Ecol­ogy Re­search [2011] showed that cat­tle can also ben­e­fit ze­bras by re­duc­ing the gas­troin­testi­nal par­a­site bur­den for ze­bras.”

Odadi ac­knowl­edged that the ex­tent to which his find­ings had ac­tu­ally in­flu­enced farm­ers to be more tol­er­ant of ze­bras “re­mains to be de­ter­mined”.


STRIPED HORSE: The ze­bra that is the talk of the Ma­clean­town area, spot­ted be­hind fenc­ing yes­ter­day.

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