Features

What colour is the zebra?

ZEBRA on the Avani Livingstone Resort grounds.

MARGARET CHISANGA, Livingstone
THE first-class welcome accorded guests upon arrival at the Avani Victoria Falls Resort in Livingstone is enough to help any traveller get over the stress of moving with excess luggage, dealing with airport check-ins or tired from long bus rides.
A glass of fresh fruit juice is handed to each guest disembarking from the shuttle buses as a host of traditional dancers move in rhythm to the beat of an African drum.
I am here courtesy of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) southern region office who are hosting an ad- hoc experts meeting on land, identity and socio-economic transformation in southern Africa.
According to regional director of UNECA southern Africa regional office, Professor Said Adejumobi, land in Africa, in addition to being a primary asset for survival and socio-economic development, defines and constructs social identity, class, ethnicity, gender, spirituality, region and political affiliation.
Livingstone, the tourist capital of Zambia, lies on beautiful land, with special effects being that the Avani Resort in particular shares the same land on which sits the mighty Victoria Falls, one of the eight wonders of the world.
What’s not to love about this place especially when early the next morning, I awake to the sight of zebras and impalas grazing on the grounds outside my ground floor resort room. I slide open the doors, place a laptop on my laps and google ‘are Zebras dangerous?’ as the group of striped animals casually glances at me, one moving to a nearby tree and beginning to rub itself against the branches.
Man at peace with animals, we meditate and plan our day. This is one surreal and heavenly moment.
Uncle Google, on the africa-wildlife-detective.com site, indicates that they are sociable animals, usually bunched up in groups. They also prefer an open habitat with short grass, making them conspicuous.
Experts have reached no consensus as to why the zebras have stripes. However, an important pointer to the function of their stripes is their effect not on predators but on other zebras. It has been suggested that the stripes serve as visual cues and identification of each other.
“They’re very sociable animals and can often be found in large dazzles numbering in the tens of thousands. Within these larger groups, smaller family groups can be found containing one male and up to six females,” the site says.
I immediately adopt this family, four zebras and impalas that are a familiar sight over the next couple of days.
Clear warning posters around the grounds indicate that it is extremely dangerous to attempt to feed the animals. Someone must have learnt that the hard way.
A five-minute walk from the resort leads to the Victoria Falls. The Zambian side of the Victoria Falls does not have a full flow of water at this time of the year. But a first-time visitor, Brigida da Cruz Henrique, is ecstatic at the sight of the falling curtains of water and I indulge her in the walk.
“This is so beautiful, I will write about this in my magazine,” says Brigida, a journalist with the Jornal Moçambique and Revista Moçambiqu Magazine in Mozambique.
In the quiet morning hours, when there is little human presence in the waterfalls enclosure, the baboons are a bit intimidating, munching on food right in the middle of the path.
In the long shadows cast by the rays of a rising sun, the statue of David Livingstone casts an eerie presence. It is as though he is there, guarding over the curtain of water that mesmerised him all those many years ago.
However, the lack of water does little to dent the city’s image as the tourist capital with one of the highest visits in southern Africa.
Tailored around the presence of the falls are tour executions such as the Abseil, Gorge swing, cable slide and a helicopter ride over the falls. These are adrenaline-packed activities not designed for the faint-hearted.
One package designed for those living life on the edge is the so famed ‘dip in the devil’s pool’, which provides an experience of a thrilling view of the falls directly from the precipice. This package, offered by Tongabezi Zambia, also includes a tour of Livingstone Island, which provides spectacular views of the falls.
Many tour companies offer fun-packed services while at the same time highlighting the importance of both wildlife and environmental conservation.
The Lion and Rhino Safari provides what they call the ‘Wildlife Encounter’, where an experienced guide will introduce tourists to a pride of lions, providing them with intriguing information about pride dynamics, followed by a guide tour on foot to view the rhino up close, while learning more about the species and relative conservation programmes.
Bush Track Africa takes revellers on a Segway ride through which tourists can also observe rare plants, birdlife, monkeys, impala and warthog grazing up close.
A walk in the main city offers an experience of a vibrant local Zambian culture, especially if one tours Mukuni Village, walks through the Maramba market and takes an art and artisan tour.
The Royal Livingstone Riverside Deck offers a perfect spot to watch the sun set as it appears to be falling into the falls.
The night, ohh the nightlife is lit, as the millennials would say.
Livingstone by night is an exciting place to be, with a variety of live bands specialised in making re-editions of Caribbean islands-flavoured music. Limpos’ and Bush Bee are the current trending places to jive the night away.
At the Avani poolside bar, the Hava Music live band have us swaying to songs like Bob Marley’s 1978 track ‘Is this Love’, and Asa’s 2007 release ‘Jailor’.
My adopted zebras graze on the lawns across the pool and we all agree that regardless of whether zebras have black stripes on white or white stripes on black, they are beautiful, fascinating creatures, with their own unique place in the animal kingdom.
There are many conflicting perspectives related to the black on white, white on black question.
According to Animalsake.com, many zoologists describe the zebra’s colour pattern as ‘black with white stripes’.
“This makes the most sense, because the colour pattern results from the process of pigment activation and inhibition?activation results in black, and inhibition results in white (lack of pigment). This means that black is the actual fur color, and the white stripes are simply areas that lack any pigmentation.”
The idea of white stripes on black is further supported by the fact that most zebras have dark-coloured skin beneath all their black and white fur.
When I overhear two academics escalate the argument over what colour the zebra is, I know it’s time to leave the bar, because somewhere along my interaction with the four regular zebras strolling on the grounds, one had begun to slowly appear purple.

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