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Zebra growth a boost for South African conservation


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has removed the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) from the most endangered list following the ‘remarkable’ recovery in its population in South Africa.

The zebra population has grown from just less than 100 animals in the 1990s to over 5,000 in 2016, signifying South Africa’s success in the conservation of the subspecies.

South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the Cape mountain zebra subspecies is endemic to South Africa and no longer meets the biological criteria for an Appendix I listing on CITES.

Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species, except when the purpose of the import is not commercial and is for scientific research.

Molewa said the Cape mountain zebra is well protected in state-owned protected areas.

“The two original subpopulations in Mountain Zebra National Park and Karoo National Park have doubled since 2004. The national population has increased steadily since the early 1990s, with the annual rate of increase from 2009 to 2015 measured at just over 9%.

“As a result, the Cape Mountain Zebra is no longer threatened with extinction, having recently been assessed as ‘least concern’ in accordance with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.”

Molewa acknowledged and thanked the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (in Port Elizabeth), and CapeNature for their collaboration and scientific research in ensuring that a well-informed policy decision is taken relating to the appropriate CITES listing of Cape mountain zebra in South Africa.

According to her department, in August 2015, the population of Cape mountain zebra comprised minimum of around 4,800 individuals in no less than 75 subpopulations that are well distributed over the historical range of the subspecies.

“Private ranchers currently play an important role in conserving almost a third of the national population and the aim is to strengthen their involvement in the meta-population management of the Cape Mountain Zebra,” Molewa added.