Groote Schuur Quagga News

Fair warning: it’s sad news.

But first, what are a Quagga?

Wikipedia says:

The quagga (Equus quagga quagga) is an extinct subspecies of plains zebra that lived in South Africa until the 19th century. It was long thought to be a distinct species, but genetic studies have shown it to be the southernmost subspecies of plains zebra.

That are nice. And what can like to be the Quagga Project?

The Quagga Project is an attempt by a group in South Africa to use selective breeding to achieve a breeding lineage of plains zebra (Equus quagga) which optically resemble the extinct quagga (Equus quagga quagga).

And thus, Quagga Project quaggas are dotted all around the Cape. Some of the most successful here, and (definitely) some of the most local just across the road from Groote Schuur Hospital.

Here’s a really poor photo I took of one back in 2014.

An aside: My, how my photography has improved. Or maybe it hasn’t, and I’m just more selective in what I choose to upload.

Or maybe both.

You decide.

Anyway, it seems that I’m not going to be able to improve on any previous photos of quaggas on the Groote Schuur Estate any time soon:

The animals at Devils Peak/Groote Schuur Estate have been moved due to uncertainty over their water supply during the water restrictions being imposed on Cape Town. Quagga and zebra need to drink daily and even a short interruption to their water supply could have devastating consequences. They have been moved to Elandsberg Farms near Wellington and Groote Post near Darling where they have joined other groups of Quagga in the wild. There are natural water holes on both these properties and the Quagga Project felt it would be safer to keep these animals there.

This is no surprise to me. I’ve been watching the Estate getting browner and browner for the past few months, and I hadn’t seen a quagga there for weeks. I usually see them twice a day: up at the top of the fields in the morning and then right down by the bottom of Hospital Bend each evening. Cape Town traffic being what it is, there’s generally plenty of time to watch them as you don’t drive past.

Sadly, it sounds like it’s a permanent move:

Those animals have been moved to other herds – the best known one, a lovely stallion called Khumba, is now on a farm on the west coast where he will hopefully father the next generation of Rau quaggas.

While that means less fun when driving to and from town, especially for my daughter, it does sound like the best thing for the quaggas. And hey, maybe another family road trip is called for out to Groote Post (conveniently located on  the Groote Post wine farm), or maybe a visit to the Nuwejaars SMA (conveniently located all around the (perennial favourite) Black Oystercatcher wine farm)?

What’s not to like?

No more quaggas on the mountain, that’s what. 🙁

 

New Quagga Foal Is Very Cute

This is very cute. And great news for the environment. I like the environment, but not to extremes.
That said, I’d never eat a quagga. Probably.

new Rau quagga foal was born about 10 days ago in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area to parents Susan and Freddie.

And here it is:

sma_1

 Awwwwww!

What’s a quagga, you ask? It looks like a a unfinished zebra. Wikipedia has all the answers:

The quagga (Equus quagga quagga) is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra that lived in South Africa. It was long thought to be a distinct species, but recent genetic studies have shown it to be the southernmost subspecies of the plains zebra. It is considered particularly close to Burchell’s zebra. Its name is derived from the plains zebra’s call, which is heard like “kwa-ha-ha”.

This follows a typical naturalist trait of naming animals after the noises they make. They did ok with the Kittiwake, but they failed miserably with the Hadeda ibis, which should obviously be called the (ever so slightly less catchy) “Raap-Raap-Greer” ibis.
I can’t comment on the accuracy of the nomenclature of the quagga, because I’ve never heard one calling. Anyone?

A few others among you may have spotted that the quagga is extinct, which does make the news above seem a bit of a stretch, so let Wikipedia explain again:

After the very close relationship between the quagga and surviving zebras was discovered, the Quagga Project was started in 1986 by Reinhold Rau in South Africa to recreate the quagga by selective breeding from plains zebra stock, with the eventual aim of reintroducing them to the wild.

The founding population consisted of 19 individuals from Namibia and South Africa, chosen because they had reduced striping on the rear body and legs. The first foal of the project was born in 1988.
Once a sufficiently quagga-like population has been created, it will be released in the Western Cape. In early 2006, the third and fourth generation animals produced by the project were reported to look very much like the depictions and preserved specimens of the quagga. This type of selective breeding is also called breeding back.

The practice of breeding back is controversial, since the resulting zebras will only resemble the quaggas in external appearance, but genetically they will be different.

Three quagga in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area feature in the Top 10 of Quagga specimens in the Quagga Project (go look at this website – really interesting). Among them is Freddie – in fact – he ranks as the number one Quagga specimen in SA. So this is big news. Nice one Freddie.

This is now on my list of things to go and do next time we’re down in Cape Agulhas, and it doesn’t hurt that the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA is just down the road from these places.

Photo credit: Mick D’Alton