FACT: Zebras have stripes, simple, they are white with black stripes. The purpose of these myriad markings is to break up their shapes and make it harder for carnivores to pick individuals out amongst a crowd.
This works to some extent, even on us humans. That is the problem. Simply put, the markings on every zebra are different, but the differences are hard for researchers to discern because the stripes all look similar to the other stripes and so on. So before researchers would have to tranquilise zebra and then attach a tag to it, so as to later recognise it. Now there is a simpler way.
Zebras have black and white stripes, so do barcodes. So software called Stripespotter was developed. It is a variation of a barcode scanner which works on photographs. Its advantage lies in the ability to work on all sizes of animal, as well as telling you how an animal is similar to others in the database, a boon for researchers.Simply take a photo including a zebra, then draw a square on the patterned side of zebra and now you can identify it any time another photo of it is taken, no need to drug the animal; an activity fraught with mild, but present risks.
So researchers will now scan zebras like barcodes, that is what I call progress. In addition they can use the system on tigers and giraffes, which is good because researchers don’t want to get anywhere near them… giraffes can be extremely aggressive.