Zebras are running rampant through the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, where they can be seen hanging out in groups, interacting with drivers, and even directing traffic. The cebritas, as they are known, aren’t of the equid variety—rather, they’re local volunteers dressed in full-body zebra costumes.
La Paz’s cebritas program is a spiritual successor to a 1990s‑era Colombian initiative launched by Bogotá’s then-mayor, Antanas Mockus, who dispatched mimes to tease and shame the city’s drivers for breaking traffic rules. Mockus, a philosopher and mathematician, believed that Colombians were more afraid of ridicule than of punishment. He appears to have been onto something: The mimes contributed to a 50 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in Bogotá during his tenure.
After a meeting with Mockus, Pablo Groux, who worked for La Paz’s government, was inspired to make his city’s “zebra crossings” (striped crosswalks) come alive. La Paz’s cebritas employ similar tactics to Bogotá’s mimes—they dance, gesture comically at drivers, and help pedestrians safely cross the street. When the program launched in 2001, it included just 24 zebras; today, La Paz has 265, and the cities of El Alto, Tarija, and Sucre have dozens more.