Mountain Zebra National Park is located just 12 km from Craddock in the Karoo desert, a place of rolling plains, craggy hills, and deep valleys. The park, a haven for the Cape Mountain Zebra, began on 1712 hectares dedicated to the region’s animal conservation in 1937. If it weren’t for the conservation efforts of the area’s farmers to protect a small herds of the endangered Cape mountain zebra, this species would have been extirpated from the region. Today, the Park’s Cape Mountain Zebra herd numbers more than 700 animals.
It wasn’t until 60 years later, though, that the park was able to expand its holdings and increase its conservation efforts due to a joint public-private initiative. The artist, David Shepherd, donated prints of his works “Mountain Zebra: A Vision in Black and White” and “Cheetahs” to raise money for the purchase of surrounding farmlands and expand the size of the Park. With matching funds from the South African National Parks Trust, the park was increased to 28,412 hectares. At that time, black rhino, Cape buffalo and cheetah were introduced.
The area experiences a warm and dry climate with an annual rainfall of <400 mm, falling mostly in the beginning of the summer months. During the winter, snow can fall at higher altitudes, blanketing the mountain peaks, and days commonly are icy-cold. Due to these extremes, plants that grow in the region belong to the Renosterveld and Fynbos types.
During the Later Stone Age, San inhabitants lived in the area and during an archeological survey in the 1970s, 30 sites were located. These range from small rock shelters in which San rock art is conserved, and 27 open sites from which Holocene-aged scrapers and other artefacts discovered were recovered. Shelter paintings are of antelope, baboon, a large cat– possibly a leopard or cheetah–and human figures.
The deep valleys are the principal habitats for Cape Buffalo, Black Rhino, Cheetah (introduced in 2007), and Caracal, while the plateau plains are favored by the Black Wildebeest, Eland, Red Hartebeest, and Gemsbok. At higher altitudes Mountain Reedbuck and Grey Rhebok commonly are found.
South Africa vermin, as they often are called, are not the ubiquitous squirrel we find in the northern hemisphere. No. Vermin in this part of the world are the troops of Vervet Monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). These monkeys are omnivorous and feed on fruit, flowers, leaves, insects, and whatever food you may have that is available to be swiped. These primates are one of a few mammals with color vision, allowing them to distinguish between green and ripe fruit, whichever you may have in your possession. Because the species is considered to be a forest-edge specialist, you often see them perched in trees lining the roads that traverse parts of the park.