Habitat use and movements of plains zebra (Equus burchelli) in response to predation danger from lions

Ilya R. Fischhoff, Siva R. Sundaresan, Justine Cordingley, Daniel Ian Rubenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Prey species must adapt their behavior to avoid predation. As a key prey item for lions (Panthera leo), plains zebras (Equus burchelli) were expected to respond to immediate threats posed by lions in their area. In addition, zebras were predicted to exhibit behavior tuned to reduce the potential for encounters with lions, by modifying their movement patterns in the times of day and habitats of greatest lion danger. We studied a population of approximately 600 plains zebra living in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. We found that zebra abundance on or near a grassland patch was lower if lions had also been observed on that patch during the same day. Predation danger was highest in grassland habitat during the night, when lions were more active. Zebra sightings and global positioning system radio collar data indicated that zebras also reduced their use of grassland at night, instead using more woodland habitat. Zebras moved faster and took sharper turns in grassland at night. It is hypothesized that these more erratic movements assist zebras in avoiding detection or capture by lions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-729
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


  • Antipredator behavior
  • Habitat choice
  • Ungulates


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