Hamilton Zoo Zebra Marbles welcomes new foal

calendar iconPosted 19 October 2023

The following article was published in the Waikato Herald on October 19 2023. Article by Danielle Zollickhofer.

It’s potentially a girl! Hamilton Zoo Zebra mare Marbles, 20, and stud Malawi, 11, are proud parents of a three-week-old foal.

Marbles gave birth at the end of last month, but the keepers are still working on determining the sex.

Hamilton Zoo exotics curator Mark Turner said it was not unusual for zoos to need some time to confirm this.

“It can be quite difficult to say when they are young because baby spends lots of time with mum and we don’t want to interfere too much. We suspect it is a girl, but can’t confirm it yet. We should be able to tell soon.”

The foal was yet to be named. Turner said the zoo would be making a decision around that, including if the public will be involved, once they know the sex.

“[The foal] is a fun addition to the herd. They grow very quickly, so it’s good to see them when they are young.”

Turner says Marbles and Malawi are “very experienced parents”. Marbles is a true Hamiltonian, having been born at Hamilton Zoo in 2003. Malawi now lives at Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park as part of a breeding programme, but was born in Australia and came to the Waikato in 2014.

Hamilton Zoo has always done well in breeding Zebras, Turner said. Since 2008, there have been 29 foals born at the zoo and that could soon be 30.

“We suspect another mare to be pregnant at the moment, so we’ll possibly have another [foal] soon. Malawi could have impregnated her before he left.”

The zoo then wants to take a break from breeding Zebras. The Hamilton-based herd has seven Zebras, including the new arrival.

“The current plan is to keep the foal at Hamilton Zoo until it is at least one year old,” Turner said.

Zebras are native to the African continent and closely related to domestic horses. Zebra stripes are just as unique as human fingerprints. In the wild, Zebras can live between 18 and 20 years, and in captivity between 25 and 30 years.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which publishes the Red List of Threatened Species, has marked several Zebra species as vulnerable. The Plains Zebra has even been listed as nearly threatened.