The African savanna is a vast and complex ecosystem where different animal species live in close proximity to each other. I find that one of the most fascinating relationships out here is the one between wildebeest and zebra. These two species are often found grazing together, and their relationship is more than just a coincidence. So why is it that we often find these two species together?
First and foremost, both wildebeest and zebra are herbivores that rely on grazing to survive. They have similar dietary requirements and preferences, which means they are often found grazing in the same areas. Wildebeest are known to prefer short grasses, while zebras prefer longer ones. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship between the two species, as they are able to share the same grazing grounds without competing for food.
Furthermore, wildebeest and zebra have different feeding behaviours that complement each other. Zebras are bulk grazers and that consume large quantities of grass as they are not ruminants and require higher amounts of grass to meet their daily needs. Wildebeest, on the other hand, are more selective grazers, that prefer shorter grasses. This means that they will often feed on the shorter parts of the grass that the zebras have left behind. They do, however, become less selective in the drier months of the year when there is less nutritious grazing available except in areas of East Africa where they migrate to find new shoots of short-growing grasses.
Safety in Numbers
Another reason why wildebeest and zebra are always found together is their shared need for safety. The African savanna is home to many predators like lions, leopards, wild dogs, and hyenas. These predators are opportunistic and are always on the lookout for prey, and zebra and wildebeest are common targets, resulting in them having developed a symbiotic relationship where they are able to increase their chances of survival by staying together.
Zebras are known for their keen sense of sight and hearing, which makes them excellent sentinels. They are able to detect predators from far away and alert the herd with their loud braying calls. Conversely, wildebeest have a strong sense of smell that allows them to detect danger even before it is visible. Together, these two species are able to form a watchful and protective group that is more difficult for predators to attack.
In addition to safety, wildebeest and zebra also benefit from each other’s company in terms of socialisation. Both species are social animals that live in herds, and being part of a larger group provides many advantages. For instance, being part of a herd makes it easier to find mates, care for their young, and defend against predators. By grazing together and sharing the same social environment, wildebeest and zebra are able to form a larger and more robust community that is better equipped to face the challenges of life in the savanna.
Finally, wildebeest and zebra are also important to each other in terms of ecosystem function. As herbivores, they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem by regulating the growth of grasses and other vegetation. This, in turn, affects the survival of other animal species that depend on the savanna for food and shelter. Wildebeest and zebra are particularly important in this regard because of their large numbers and the fact that they are both keystone species in the ecosystem.
In conclusion, wildebeest and zebra are often found together because of the many benefits they derive from each other’s company. From sharing grazing grounds to providing safety and socialisation, these two species have developed a close relationship vital to their survival in the African savanna. As we continue to learn more about the intricacies of this ecosystem, it is important to appreciate the important role that wildebeest and zebra play in maintaining their delicate balance.