Zebras: Nature’s Barcode

While you may have thought all zebras are the same, there are actually different species of zebra. Unfortunately, one species in particular, the Grevy’s zebra, has been dwindling in population.

Grevy Zebras have a larger body, bigger ears, and more stripes that are closer together than that of regular zebras.

In an effort to track and ultimately save the Grevy’s zebra, increased efforts in Kenya include establishing an inventory of the individual animals. Rather than tagging zebra’s with RFID chips, which is how other animals have been tracked in the past, conservationists are making use of the zebra’s naturally occurring barcodes—their stripes. Each zebra’s striping pattern is unique, much like a human fingerprint, but much easier to read from afar.

Currently, photographs of the zebras are documented on coded cards. But soon enough, stripe ID software is being developed that will allow the Grevy zebra’s stripes to be read like a barcode and automatically identified.

Learn more about efforts to save the Grevy zebra by tracking them with their “barcode” stripes.