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The Quagga’s Journey from Extinction to Rebirth

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A Glimpse into the Past

Native to the grasslands and arid regions of the Karoo, the quagga was a grazer that often gathered in herds of 30-50. The quagga was a distinct and beautiful creature with a unique coat characterized by stripes that faded towards the rear. However, the arrival of European settlers marked the beginning of the quagga’s decline, as they were extensively hunted for their meat and skins. By 1878, the quagga was extinct in the wild, and the last captive individual died in 1883.

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Quagga Quick Facts

  • Scientific Classification: Equus quagga quagga
  • Physical Appearance: Stripes at the front, fading towards the rear
  • Habitat: Grasslands and arid scrubland of Karoo, South Africa
  • Extinction: Last wild quagga died in 1878; last captive in 1883
  • DNA Analysis: First extinct animal to have its DNA analysed in 1984
  • Breeding Back Project: Initiated in 1987 to recreate the quagga’s coat pattern

The Quagga Project

A glimmer of hope emerges in the heart of this tragic extinction story. The Quagga Project, initiated in 1987, embarked on a mission to resurrect the quagga’s distinctive coat pattern. By selectively breeding plains zebras, the project has made significant strides, with third and fourth-generation ‘Rau’ quaggas echoing the appearance of their extinct predecessors.

The Quagga’s Legacy

The extinction of the quagga marked a significant loss, erasing a unique member of South Africa’s biodiversity. However, the Quagga Project symbolizes humanity’s ability to rectify past mistakes. Each quagga-like zebra born is a step towards reviving a lost subspecies and a testament to the importance of preserving Earth’s rich biodiversity.

Future Prospects

As the ‘Rau’ quaggas graze the landscapes of Somerset West in South Africa farm, their stripes narrate a journey from extinction to rebirth. This narrative offers profound lessons in conservation and underscores the indomitable spirit of those dedicated to making a difference. Though lost to history, the quagga lives on in these efforts, echoing a call for a future where every species is valued and extinction becomes a tale of the past.

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© africanews Youtube


The quagga’s story is a poignant reminder of the impacts of human actions on wildlife. Yet, it also illuminates the potential for redemption and the power of concerted conservation efforts. As we reflect on the quagga’s legacy, let it inspire a renewed commitment to cherish and protect the intricate tapestry of life that graces our planet.

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Latest posts by Cayla de Souza, M.Sc. Ocean Sciences & Marine Biology (see all)

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