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Green Light for Cape Mountain Zebras

Green Light for Cape Mountain Zebras
After years of hard work, conservation efforts have finally paid off for the Cape mountain zebra…

Not only has it been downgraded to Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species recently, but international trade is once again allowed.

This after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) accepted a proposal to transfer the Cape mountain zebra from Appendix I to Appendix II. This decision was made at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) conference at the end of September in Johannesburg.

The Cape Mountain zebra no longer meets the criteria for an Appendix I listing. In the 1960s, there were less than 100 Cape mountain zebras left, but remarkable conservation efforts saw this number grow to more than 5000 individuals in 2016.

The transfer to Appendix II opens up additional economic opportunities (such as international trade) as their habitats can now be expanded even further. “Private ranchers currently play an important role in conserving almost a third of the national population. The aim is to strengthen their involvement in the meta-population management of the Cape Mountain Zebra,” said Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa said at the conference.

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Cape mountain zebra are protected in a number of national parks, but the Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP) is where it all started, way back in 1937. Initially, 1712 hectares were proclaimed and in total 17 animals were donated for conservation.

Since these humble beginnings, population were also placed in the Karoo, Camdeboo, Tankwa Karoo and Bontebok national parks. While Addo Elephant, Table Mountain and West Coast national parks are effectively outside their historic range, you will find these stocky animals roaming here.

“Due to habitat loss of their natural habitat, the natural distribution has been extended to include similar areas close to the natural range,” says Carly Cowell, SANParks regional ecologist at the Cape Research Centre.

“The two original subpopulations in the Mountain Zebra and Karoo national parks 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%,” Molewa said.

To ensure that the Cape mountain zebra remains a conservation success, South Africa has already undertaken some analyses and modelling to determine conditions for adaptive management and offtake quotas.

Written by René de Klerk– SANParks Times Reporter

Content courtesy of SANParks Times: www.sanparkstimes.co.za

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