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The Secret Lives of Wild
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The Secret Lives of Wild Animals — Text-only | Flash Special Report
Zebra

Movie
Learn more about how scientists are gaining insights into zebra decision-making.

MANY WILD ANIMALS AT WATER HOLE

ILYA FISCHHOFF:  When we see animals on a landscape, we often wonder, how did they choose this place? 

ZEBRA STANDING ALONE IN OPEN FIELD
Like people, animals must choose where and when

ZEBRAS GRAZING
to eat,

ZEBRA LYING IN FIELD
to rest,

ZEBRAS AT WATER HOLE
to drink,

SEVERAL ZEBRAS TOGETHER
and who to be with,

LION WALKS UP TO ANOTHER LION
all while avoiding dangers. 

ZEBRAS MINGLING IN GROUPS
We are studying animal decision-making on real landscapes. 

MAP OF AFRICA; ZOOM IN TO SHOW EXACT LOCATION
We focus on plain zebras, living in Kenya.  Our population lives in Laikipia, a biologically rich ecosystem, where people and wildlife  

SHOT OF SKY,  MOVING DOWN TO ZEBRAS WALKING IN LINE
 SHOT OF LEOPARD
coexist….and sometimes conflict. 

ELEPHANTS WITH YOUNG
One of our field sites is Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the wildlife preserve which supports its operations

CATTLE
through cattle ranching and tourism. 

RESEARCHERS EXAMINING ZEBRA, ZEBRAS GRAZING
There, we observe the movements and behavior of zebras directly from a car,

ZEBRA WITH GPS COLLAR WALKS THROUGH FIELD
or remotely using GPS radio collars and

VIDEO:  SHOT OF BIRD AT MAN-MADE WATER HOLE
video cameras that we set up at water holes in the four areas  of the reserve.   

ZEBRA LOOKING DIRECTLY AT CAMERA
One of our main questions is,

VIDEO: ZEBRAS AT MAN MADE WATER HOLE
how do zebras decide when and where to go to drink?  As zebras come to water, they are captured on video.  We can recognize each individual by its distinctive stripe patterns. 

VIDEO:  CATTLE DRINKING
Understanding how animals like zebras make decisions about water is essential to wildlife being able to share limited water sources with people and their livestock. 

VIDEO: MAN WITH DOG ON FARM
In Laikipia, rainfall is low, and droughts are frequent. 

VIDEO: ZEBRAS DRINKING AT WATER HOLE IN DAYTIME
Our videos give us a far more complete record of individual drinking decisions than has been possible before.  We now know that zebras prefer drinking in the morning

VIDEO:  LIONS SECLUDED BY DARKNESS
and rarely come at night, when lions are more active. We can identify especially dangerous times and locations from lion visits to the water holes. 

VIDEO: ZEBRAS AND WILD BOARS AT EMPTY WATER HOLE
Having collected baseline data, we do experiments.  If we temporarily take water away from a site, then zebras show us by their next move how they choose among water holes. 

ZEBRAS WALKING IN LINE
As one might expect, zebras prefer to walk less to reach an alternative water site.

ZEBRAS COME TO ANOTHER WATER HOLE
 We often observe them walking directly to the closest water hole.  In choosing the closest option, zebras may go to a water hole they would otherwise rarely use.

ZEBRAS KNEE DEEP IN WATER
 In some cases, the water hole closest to the one we’ve just emptied is in a dangerous place,

ZEBRA WALKS PAST HEAVY BRUSH
surrounded by bushes where we know lions rest and hide.

ZEBRAS RUNNING FROM HEAVY BRUSH
 Zebras  experience conflict  in choosing  between this close but dangerous option or a safer place that is a farther walk. 

LIONS NEARBY
They sometimes come very near to the risky option before

ZEBRAS IN OPEN LAND, LOOK BACK AND FINALLY FORGE AHEAD
backing away, and continuing on to drink at a safer alternative.

ZEBRAS GRAZING.   .
 These experiments open a new window into the working mind of animals in the wild.

FADE TO MANY WILD ANIMALS AT WATER HOLE

Movie Credits

CONTENT
Ilya R. Fischhoff, Princeton University
Margaret Martonosi, Princeton University
Dan I. Rubenstein, Princeton University
Nathan Gregory, Princeton University
Heather Larkin, Princeton University
Siva Sundaresan, Princeton University
© Ol Pejeta Conservancy 2005. All rights reserved.
Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

PRODUCTION
Ilya R. Fischhoff, Princeton University
Princeton University New Media Center
Cliff Braverman, National Science Foundation
S2N Media, Inc.