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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Horse of a Different Color

Air Date: Week of

A herd of zebra graze in Maasai Mara. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Living on Earth's Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender shares his appraisal of an artistic herd of zebras in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.


CURWOOD: Prey animals have evolved strategies to evade predators. Some are fast and agile, like rabbits. Some are slow like snails and turtles but they have hard shells for protection. Our Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, has this story of an animal that simply finds great safety in numbers.

LENDER: Zebra are making themselves painterly. Spreading out. Milling about. Closing the gap. Becoming a knot a knitting a… Tapestry. Abstract. Abstruse. Neither close nor distant on first glance and are they Herd (Indivisible) or Horse (Invisible)?

Or both?

That’s the trick of it.

And whether White Horse herd in shadow or a Dark Horse herd in light, even the predators (for whom disambiguation is their only business) struggle to get it right. There are too many decisions to make!

Which is the point of it.

The lioness furrows her brow (did those flashing lines give her a migraine?). The leopard stares and blinks, as if he cannot focus (has he had too little sleep?).

A close-up on a single zebra. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Jackal packs it in.

Wild Dogs loll their tongues and sit down on their haunches (as if they have to have a think).

White-backed Vultures (they know what it’s all about) repeat their mantra silently: circle, circle, wait… wait...

While spotted hyena (being opportunists) will let the Nile crocodiles sort it all out.

Well, Zebra did not have to go to finishing school to learn that Living is an Art, that One alone is decoration and strength in numbers is the only way to save your hide. It is not wisdom, just a Fact of Nature there is great danger all by yourself. Those are the breaks. There’s little bending.

Going it Alone and Lonely never wrote a Happy Ending.

CURWOOD: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender.



Read the field note for this essay

Learn more about Mark Seth Lender's stories and adventures

Learn about Destination: Wildlife


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