As the season dries up and the dust becomes a constant feature in the air, the advantage of this is that the sunsets become even more beautiful – if that is possible!? And then when you have animal subjects providing you with some interest in the sunset, it lends itself to a great photo opportunity.
One such evening, after our usual gin and tonic sundowners in a quiet spot, we were winding our way slowly back to camp in Hwange National Park, when we happened across two young Zebras tussling not too far off the road. They were positioned perfectly with the sunset almost behind them and were kicking up enough dust to create a beautiful background.
The young geldings were testing each others strength, practicing for when they would be old enough to try and defend their own herd. This play fighting enables them to develop their fighting skills, although at this stage it is only a fun competition, not the life and death situation when they have their own herds.
The Burchell’s or Plains Zebra is one of the most numerous and successful herbivores and is found from southeast Sudan to South Africa. These black on white striped horse lookalikes all have their own set of stripes, each individual is as unique as a fingerprint. The Zebras are highly sociable with a dominant stallion with anywhere between 2 to 6 mares. So tight is the family bond, that if a member gets lost, the stallion will go looking and calling for the straggler. He will also defend his ladies and their offspring from all threats and when an individual becomes injured or sick the rest of the herd will slow its pace to accommodate this. With a life span of 20 years, stallions can stay fighting fit for some 15 years, so losing his family in a fight is unlikely, so the up and coming stallions usually acquire their own ladies by stealing fillies from other herds.
The squealing and snorting that the play fighting youngsters were uttering carried far in the slowly dying evening, but they soon tired of their game and joined the rest of their herd to ready themselves for the night ahead. We took that as our signal to leave and carried onto camp with some beautiful photos to remind us of their game.