Lonely Planet Writer

‘Extinct’ zebra comes back to life in South Africa

Visitors to the Riebeeck Valley in South Africa can travel back in time as a subspecies of zebra once thought to be extinct now walks the plains again.

A zebra in South Africa.
A zebra in South Africa. Image by Barbara Eckstein / CC BY 2.0

Quaggas, a type of plains zebra with a distinct lack of stripes on its hindquarters, were all but wiped out by hunters in the 19th century. But over the last 30 years scientist have been using a process of selective breeding to revive this lost species. Reinhold Rau, a German-born South African natural historian and founder of the Quagga Project, discovered that the quagga and the plains zebra shared the same DNA and therefore the quagga could be re-bred into existence by selectively mating zebras with similar colouration to that of the quagga. Quaggas are endemic to the Western Cape region of South Africa, the last original quagga died in 1883 in Amsterdam Zoo.

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