Our tour guide has been testing our knowledge of words for groups of animals: a bellow of Cape buffalo, a rank of impala, a tower of giraffes, a dazzle of zebra. Where these names come from is a mystery, but in the case of zebras, it seems to be an accurate term for their strategy of hiding in plain sight.
Basically, when viewing groups of striped patterns, it becomes difficult to separate individuals, and thus a potential predator is “dazzled” about where the body of its prey actually is.
The British Navy made use of this strategy with dazzle camouflage of their ship sails during world war 1, creating striped patterns of color that interrupted each other so that it was difficult to target specific ships.
Zebra stripe pattern varies from individual to individual, so they likely recognize each other, but it would take computer analysis for us to differentiate. Nevertheless, a mare separates from the rest of the herd for about a week after she foals so that her youngster can learn her stripe pattern and find her easily.
Another potential advantage of the striped fur coat may be reduced attractiveness to the flies that commonly infest and annoy most hoofed animals. The thinner the stripes, the less likely the flies are to land and begin feeding, according to some researchers.
Zebras are numerous in the Okavango delta and Hwange national park in Zimbabwe, but so far are rare in Chobe park in Botswana, where we are currently searching for leopards before we head back to the U.S.