Do Zebras Migrate? (Explained)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Animal migration is the relatively long-distance movement of individual animals, usually on a seasonal basis.

It is found in all major animal groups, including birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and crustaceans.

Most mammals that migrate overland are, however, herbivores and they move as the weather changes over the seasons and the vegetation growth changes.

However, it is safe to say not all mammals migrate, especially those that are domestic animals.

This brings us to our topic for today, Are zebras part of those mammals that migrate? Let’s find out.

Do Zebras Migrate?

Do Zebras Migrate

Yes, Zebras just like other mammals migrate.

Zebras are social animals that live together in small and sometimes large groups in the grasslands, savannas, and mountains of Africa.

Animals migrate so that they can survive; it is a form of adaptation. The amazing thing about zebras is that they just know where to migrate to.

Zebras use past memory to guide their migration each year. 

Memory-based on past average conditions provides a clear signal that best directs zebras to their destination.

So they can easily figure out where to migrate to and this also ensures their safety in a way.

This article discusses some interesting information about zebra migration. Continue reading to learn more!

Here is an article I wrote on do zebras eat leaves?

Do Zebras Migrate Every Year?

Zebras migrate twice every year. Zebras walk about 300 miles when they migrate. The amazing thing is that they don’t migrate alone.

Every year there are over 1.5 million wildebeests and 2,00,000 zebras that participate in the great migration. 

I’m sure you’re wondering why they do this? Well, wildebeest and the zebra are best buddies in the wildlife.

They have a symbiotic relationship where everybody wins.

One of the benefits they both enjoy from their relationship is – safety. Due to their large number predators like lions tend to stay away.

The wildebeest have a good sense of hearing and smell that helps protect them from predators. This unique feature of the wildebeest also helps during food search.

Zebras have great eyesight to see any threat.

The wildebeests have a swarm intelligence that can act on problems and solve them as a unit or group.

Notwithstanding, migration for zebras isn’t a bed of roses, they face a lot of threats in the process. Some of the threats they encounter include;

  • Natural threats; This includes threats from predators such as cheetahs, lions leopards, Nile crocodiles, and African wild dogs. Weather changes can also pose a threat to them.
  • Man-made threats; Man-made threats are also dangerous to migrating zebras. Hunting for meat, sport, and their hide have made zebras a threatened species. The migration routes of zebras are also threatened by development and human land use.

What Time Of The Year Do Zebras Migrate?

Zebras migrate during the dry and rainy seasons. They usually migrate first from North to South, then back from South to North. 

During the dry season which usually runs from April to October, zebras stay in the northern area of Botswana where there are natural sources of water.

During the wet season, which is usually between November and March, zebras head south.

The zebra will spend the long dry season in the wetlands in the North of Botswana, enjoying the plentiful water of the rivers.

As the dry season comes to an end, zebras begin to move from the North to the South, following routes that have been taken by these animals for thousands of years.

They cross the plains of the Kalahari Desert, now wracked by thunderstorms, to find more grazing further South.

They enter the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, a place that in the dry season is devoid of life and water but that is bursting with vegetation. 

They spend the rest of the rainy season in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, before turning back to reach the Northern Deltas by the start of the next dry season.

From May to November, zebras will be in the north of Botswana.

As the rain begins to fall at the end of November and the start of December, they begin their long migration towards the interior of the Kalahari Desert. 

Usually, zebras will be on the move until January, when they get to the Salt Pans of Makgadikgadi.

That’s where they will stay until they repeat the long return journey at the end of March.

At this time, they make it back to the wet North in time for the dry season that begins again in April and May.

Also check out this article I wrote on do zebras laugh

How Far Do Zebras Migrate?

Zebras will cover huge tracks of land, walking over 300 miles during the migrations. Up to 30,000 animals will be on the move at any one time. 

Migration is not just beneficial to animals, it is also important to the ecosystem.

Migratory animals are essential components of the ecosystems that support all life on Earth.

By acting as pollinators and seed distributors they contribute to ecosystem structure and function.

They provide food for other animals and regulate the number of species in ecosystems. Migratory animals are potentially very effective indicators of environmental changes that affect us all.

You might also be wondering why Zebras migrate, well here’s an answer to that;

  • Zebras migrate in search of more nutritious foraging grounds. Some studies have shown that the grasses where zebras migrate have higher protein levels.
  • Zebras migrate due to weather conditions. They prefer environments where there is more rainfall without being dependent on a permanent body of water.
  • Zebras can also migrate for the sake of reproduction.

Do Zebras Migrate In Winter?

No, Zebras do not migrate in winter. Zebras only migrate during wet and dry seasons.

A great percentage of zebras are found in Africa and Africa’s climate is characterized by dry and wet conditions.

This is because of its geographical location which is within the intertropical zone between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. 

Winter in Africa is generally warm and usually occurs in June, July, and August.

However, if they are unavoidably faced with winter, they do not have thick skin like horses so it is going to be tough, especially for undomesticated zebras.

Zebras however have adaptive features such as their skin that help them withstand harsh weather conditions.

During dry seasons, zebras’ major protection against heat comes from their stripes (for striped zebras).

The black strip soaks up sunlight, and white reflects sunlight which helps them remain cool in the heat.

They only absorb around 30 percent of the sun’s rays, and their patterns dispel the rest.

Their stripes also provide extra camouflage on very hot days, enabling them to blend into the distorted, shimmering landscape so predators can’t see them from a distance.


Zebras do migrate and they do this with past memory to guide their migration each year.

Memory-based on past average conditions provides a clear signal that best directs zebras to their destination.

Zebras do not migrate alone, they migrate in groups for safety.

These creatures migrate for a lot of reasons which include searching for food, weather conditions, and reproductions.

Zebras migrate twice every year.

They walk about 300 miles when they migrate. Every year there are over 1.5 million wildebeests and 2,00,000 zebras participates in the great migration. 

Fortunately, zebras are rarely affected by winter since they are predominantly in Africa whose winters season is usually warm. 

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.


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