It is said that extinction is forever, but in the Western Cape Province of South Africa a project is underway in a number of nature reserves to bring back a species that was hunted to extinction in the 19th century. The Quagga, the southern-most zebra species in Africa was wiped from the landscape by farmers who saw the Quagga as competing for the grazing for their stock.
The rate of species extinction on Earth today is alarming. In Africa species have suffered from human encroachment for centuries, moving to other areas where they adapt, or simply die out. The early European settlers in South Africa were responsible for decimating the herds that roamed the southern reaches of the continent.
The last known Quagga died in the Amsterdam zoo in 1883, although it was not known at the time that it was the last of its species. There has always been a debate as to whether the Quagga was a separate species or a sub-species of one of the three southern African species of Zebra.
Studies from skin specimens indicated that the Quagga shared much of the same DNA as the southern Plains or Burchell's Zebra and the idea was floated that the Quagga could be brought back from extinction through selective breeding.
A number of Burchell's Zebra were selected for their markings from Etosha National Park in Namibia and parks in Kwazulu Natal. These animals were trans-located to a number of nature reserves, private reserves and national parks in the Western Cape earmarked for the project.
The project is now in its 20th generation and the results are astounding, with a foal been born recently that could easily be mistaken for a living Quagga. However, detractors of the project are still not convinced that it is possible to bring the Quagga back from extinction - although on sight alone it is becoming harder to argue with the results.
The project does have some side effects, not least been the offspring that do not fit the correct criteria. These individuals are duly thrown out of the project and are sent to other reserves and national parks.
One of the national parks where these Zebras are sent to is Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. Here it is not unusual to see some very weirdly-striped Zebra, the mutants that have been dumped from the project.