Project History & Aims
This project works with a number of conservation partners to conserve Grevy’s zebra in Kenya.
The Grevy’s zebra in-situ conservation activities are run through the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the Grevy’s Zebra European Endangered Species programme (EEP) which is coordinated by Marwell Wildlife. The core activities focus in the far north of Kenya, the Milgis ecosystem, on wild population monitoring, evaluation, education and emergency conservation response.
Collaring operations form part of the Northern Kenya Grevy’s Zebra Project and have now been ongoing in this particular area for nearly three years. While deploying the collars has always been challenging, the data amassed so far already tell a fascinating story of the adaptation and resilience of this amazing species.
The value of Grevy’s zebra movement data from GPS collars has been demonstrated elsewhere in the study area, where they have proved instrumental in informing national and county level development strategies, especially in areas of risk to zebra such as when crossing roads.
The collars that have been deployed over the past 11 years throughout the Kenyan Grevy’s zebra range have performed well, despite moving far beyond the reach of civilization. Recently, several large data downloads were sent by the collars and this has filled in large gaps in the records. It has been demonstrated that the population of zebra in South Horr and those migrating between Mount Kulal and the Chalbi Desert are very much permanent residents of these vast dry lands. While they do travel long distances over the rugged terrain, particularly when it is raining, they appear to return to the same areas in the deep dry season. It is thought these areas are not only safe places with tolerant communities but also represent important foaling sites where lactating females can reliably find water and fodder daily.
2017 also saw the project approached by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to consider expanding the collaring operations to Tsavo National Park. A small population of Grevy’s zebra were translocated there in the late 1960’s and 70’s as an insurance against extinction. Now, over 40 years later, the population still persists and though small (53 individuals documented so far) it is resilient and manages to continue despite major disruptions. The new Standard Gauge rail line bisecting their territory in Tsavo and the upgrading of road, power and pipeline infrastructure along the same route threaten their already tenuous existence. KWS have asked the project to support the implementation of a telemetry study which will be of high value to protecting this small but highly important population.
Digital Stripe Pattern Identification Project
Photos for stripe pattern identification have been collated for 10 years now. Pictures are taken of the right hand side of Grevy’s zebra encountered in the field, either on targeted photo safaris or chance encounters, and then stored in a national database. Photos are also added from the camera trap network, which is managed and maintained by a team of scouts that are recruited from local communities. The cameras are placed at water holes or known Grevy routes where there are maximum chances of recording seldom seen animals that are dispersed across the vast arid landscape in the north of Kenya.
Early indications are that survival of both adults and foals is high, and that the sampled areas have stable or increasing populations.
These preliminary findings agree with the recent IUCN assessment and will provide a baseline from which to compare future surveys. In the process of analysing these data, another interesting and important aspect of Grevy’s movement behaviour has been revealed. While the species is highly mobile, Grevy’s zebra appear to occur in sub-populations, with relatively low levels of movement and mixing between them. This may be a result of increasing human populations and the loss of linking habitat. However, it may also suggest that the species displays habitat selection based on consistent resource availability, more than the quality of the resources themselves.
In 2017, Northern Kenya was once again in the grip of a prolonged drought with devastating effects to humans and wildlife alike. The long-term degradation of habitat has led to a point where these ecosystems have almost no ability to recover from further impacts. This means that with every drought wildlife is affected more and more by depleting resources. Grasslands have dried up and strong winds are blowing. Seasonal rivers and shallow wells have also dried up.
Not only did the short rains fail between December 2016 and January 2017 but the long rains of March to June 2017 also stayed away from the north of Kenya. A severe drop in zebra body condition was recorded and 2017 to date more than 60 animals including lactating mares and foals have perished. Several poaching events have also been recorded as people desperate for food have turned to wildlife – a new emerging threat to Grevy’s zebra in these dire times and an unexpected consequence of climate change in the region.
In response to the drought, the Grevy’s Zebra Technical Committee activated the emergency supplementary feeding protocol, and supplementary hay is being distributed to the zebra which also benefits other wildlife.
So far, many hundred bales of hay have been provided at seven sites across the region and it is expected this will carry on until at least October 2017.
How is Banham Zoo Supporting Grevy’s Zebra Conservation?
In 2017 Banham Zoo donated £2000 to GREVY’S ZEBRA CONSERVATION.
We have supported this project since 2004, donating a total of £27,000.
Photos courtesy of Marwell Wildlife.