Partners: University of Newcastle, Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Gondwana Cañon Park, Ai-Ais/Fish River National Park, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Büllsport Guest Farm, the Namib Naukluft Park and Etosha National Park.
Dates: Started 2005, ongoing
Project Leader: Professor Morris Gosling, University of Newcastle, UK
Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae) is Namibia's only endemic large mammal and a protected species in Namibia. It is a subspecies of mountain zebra and together with the Cape mountain zebra (E.z.zebra) in South Africa is of global conservation importance (IUCN Red List Category: Vulnerable). Cape mountain zebras were reduced by overhunting to less than 100 animals in the 1940s although protection in parks and reserves has allowed their numbers to expand again. Hartmann's populations in Namibia are healthier but they still numbered only about 25,000 in 2002 (Novellie et al, 2002), mainly in protected areas, conservancies and farms devoted partly or wholly to wildlife.
The purpose of the Mountain Zebra Project is to promote the study of mountain zebras for scientifically based population management and promote them as as a flagship species for wider ecosystem conservation in Namibia. The project is comparing the ecology and behaviour of the species across a variety of habitats and developing study techniques that are useful in sites with different conservation management objectives.
Like many large mammals, mountain zebras have a complex relationship with people. They are a threatened sub-species and in places suffer from unsustainable exploitation, but they can also become locally abundant and cause overgrazing, particularly in the arid, fragile habitats that are typical of most of their range in Namibia. In addition to their significance as an iconic member of Africa's equids and deserving of conservation in their own right, they are also an economic resource of great value when properly managed. They represent a subtle variation on the equid theme and their biology, particularly in comparison to the numerically more successful ruminants of the African savannahs, still poses many unsolved riddles.
The Mountain Zebra Project is co-ordinated by Professor Morris Gosling of the University of Newcastle, UK, in partnership with landowners and conservationists who share the aims of mountain zebra conservation, of scientifically based management and of affection for this tough and charismatic species. The Project started in 2005 in Gondwana Cañon Park and the neighbouring /Ai-/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and has subsequently expanded to NamibRand Nature Reserve, Naukluft National Park, Büllsport Guest Farm and Etosha National Park.
The Namibia Nature Foundation has provided an administrative base for the project and consistent help and support.