Evidence of infanticide in the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra)

Jake Britnell, Susanne Shultz, Liesl Vorster

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Infanticide has been described across mammal species. Infanticide is thought to be a tactic which increases reproductive opportunities or reduces competition over local resources. Species of the genus Equus exhibit life history traits such as expensive young, long gestation, lactation and dependency, extended inter-birth interval when there is a foal at foot and strong male reproductive skew. These traits suggest infanticide may be present throughout the genus. However, most documented cases of infanticide attempts come from captive populations and rely heavily on indirect accounts in free-roaming populations. Here, we report an infanticide attempt in Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra). The aggression was perpetrated by multiple bachelor males on two foals belonging to the same family group. The foals were separated from the parent group, chased and harried for a total of 45 minutes before the mothers and herd stallion were able to regain their offspring. We also report three cases of infanticide from necropsy. The injuries sustained by the foals are consistent with infanticide-based injuries documented in other equids species. The timing of these deaths occurs after a stallion turnover. These two cases provide the most conclusive evidence to date that infanticide takes place within mountain zebra.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date17 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2021


  • Aggression
  • Equids
  • Fitness
  • Mortality
  • Sex ratio
  • Social stability
  • Stallion turnover
  • Usurpation


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