Though all zebras look like each other they are not exactly the same. Besides a similar striped body, there are many things that set them apart, behavior, habitat, and life span, to name a few. They are members of the horse family along with donkeys.
Zebras are prized for their beauty and unique characteristics. They could not be domesticated like other members of their family.
It is a subject of interest for many zebra lovers as to how long do zebras live? The average zebra lifespan is different for each animal.
Most people believe that it is somewhat close to the lifespan of horses and donkeys as them being close relatives. Zebras are divided into different species and their lifespan is affected by environmental factors and lifespan.
Zebras look like horses and donkeys but their behavior is different than the aforementioned animals. They usually live in the wild where situations are not always in their favor.
Zebras face harsh conditions like food scarcity, encounter predators, and more which affects their life expectancy greatly. There is no way to know the exact number but some estimates will help you find the life expectancy of Zebras.
How Long Do Zebra Live?
The answer to how long do zebras live is circumstantial, however, the lifespan of a zebra is about 20 to 30 years. If zebras are well cared for, they can approximately live up to 40 years.
On average, a zebra can live up to 30 years in its natural habitat. There are many factors that affect the lifespan of the zebra.
Zebras have three different types of species including Burchell’s zebras (Equus quagga or Burchell), mountain zebras (Equus zebra), and Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi).
Most of these species are found in African countries. Life expectancies of all three species differ slightly.
Life Span of Different Zebra Species
Each Zebra species have a different lifespan due to the environment and habitat they live in. Many environmental factors shorten or extend the lifetime of an animal. Lifespans of three zebra species are discussed below.
They are commonly known as Plain Zebras. It is the most common and populated zebra species and is legally farmed and hunted for human consumption.
They prefer open woodlands and grasslands for their natural habitat. Plain Zebra has black and white stripes with nearly or wholly unstriped legs.
The lifespan of Burchell’s Zebra is approximately 20 to 30 years. In a captive environment and favorable conditions, life expectancy can extend to be 40 years.
Mountain Zebras are notable for their smaller body structure. They roam and live through the southwestern region of Africa.
As the name implies, these zebras like to live in rugged mountains. It is a “Vulnerable” zebra species, hunting and extended dry spells are the reason for the decline in population.
Habitat loss, predator attacks, and unfavorable conditions affect their lifespan. Mountain zebras can live up to 20 years in the wild.
Only a few zebras living in a favorable environment can cross the 20 years mark. Mostly captive Mountain zebras live for more than 20 years.
According to science direct longest-living Mountain Zebra lived for approximately 30 years. It was just 6 months shy of turning 30.
Grevy’s Zebra or Imperial Zebra is the most threatened species than the other two, Plain Zebra and Mountain Zebra.
As per the reports, less than 2500 Grevy’s Zebras are left in the world. Called after Jules Grévy, this species is primarily found in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Known for its narrow stripes, Grevy’s Zebra usually weighs between 750 to 1,000 pounds. They survive on forbs and grasses during extremely dry conditions.
Scarce food resources are a major threat to the species and are responsible for shortening life expectancy.
In the wild or their natural habitat, they survive around 12 or 13 years of age. Some Grevy’s Zebra can live as long as 18 years. In a captive environment, their lifespan extends to be 20 or 22 years.
Life Expectancy In Captivity
Most people will be shocked to hear that zebras live longer in captivity. Zebras living in zoos and on farms do not have to face predator attacks.
They are well-cared for, given proper feed and nutrition. These zebras are taken to the vet in case of an illness or a disease. They do not encounter any reproductive problems while in captivity and are provided the best healthcare if any by their keepers.
Predators are out of the question and the other major problem, food scarcity responsible for shortening the lifespan of zebras becomes non-existent. Captive zebras are given proper, nutrients rich food to maintain their health. It also extends their lifespan to be as long as 40 years.
Life Expectancy In The Wild
In the wild or their natural habitat, zebras can only live up to 20 years or a maximum of 25 years during favorable conditions. Life expectancy varies depending on food scarcity and predators. They usually get affected by viruses and diseases which shorten their lifespan.
The drinking water is also contaminated by parasites causing many illnesses or diseases requiring medical attention. Untreated and infected wounds incapacitate zebras making them an easy target for predators. Wild zebras rarely get any medical help and often have a painful death.
Predation and Life Expectancy
Predation is one of the major causes of death for zebras. It is also one of the biggest threats to the vulnerable Zebra species. They are often targeted by hyenas, lions, crocodiles, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs. Human beings also hunt zebras and go after their hides and flesh.
In the wild, where zebra predators are at large, the lifespan of a zebra is about nine years. Young zebras often get attack the predators as they are easier to handle. About 50% of the foals get killed by predators. Malnourishment and insufficient water supplies also shorten the lifespan of a zebra.
In brief, Wild zebras have a shorter lifespan than captive zebras. The average life expectancy of a zebra varies between 20 to 30 years.