Cape Mountain Zebra moves off most endangered list

The growth in numbers of the Cape mountain zebra population has enabled the species to move off the most endangered list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

South Africa’s proposal to transfer the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) from Appendix I to Appendix II of CITES has been adopted at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) to CITES, which is underway in Johannesburg.

The proposal was based on the remarkable recovery from just less than 100 individual animals in the 1990s to a number well over 5 000 in 2016, signifying South Africa’s success in the conservation of the subspecies.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on Wednesday said the Cape mountain zebra subspecies is endemic to South Africa and no longer meets the biological criteria for an Appendix I listing on CITES.

Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species, except when the purpose of the import is not commercial and is for scientific research.

Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

“The Cape mountain zebra is well protected in State-owned protected areas. The two original subpopulations in Mountain Zebra National Park and Karoo National Park have doubled since 2004.

“The national population has increased steadily since the early 1990s, with the annual rate of increase from 2009 to 2015 measured at just over 9%,” Minister Molewa said.

According to her department, in August 2015, the population of Cape mountain zebra comprised a minimum of around 4 800 individuals in no less than 75 subpopulations that are well distributed over the historical range of the subspecies.

“As a result, the Cape Mountain Zebra is no longer threatened with extinction, having recently been assessed as ‘least concern’ in accordance with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species,” the department said.

The transfer of Cape mountain zebra to Appendix II supports the management and conservation of this subspecies, as it opens up additional economic opportunities that can support the expansion of available habitat and better management of subpopulations on private land.

“Private ranchers currently play an important role in conserving almost a third of the national population and the aim is to strengthen their involvement in the meta-population management of the Cape Mountain Zebra,” Minister Molewa said.

South Africa has already undertaken some analysis and modelling to determine conditions for adaptive management of Cape mountain zebra and the setting of offtake quotas.

Minister Molewa acknowledged and thanked the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and CapeNature for their collaboration and scientific research in ensuring that a well-informed policy decision is taken relating to the appropriate CITES listing of Cape mountain zebra in South Africa. –