The number of Grévy’s zebras in the wild has reduced by 80% since the 1970s. The zebra species only exists in Ethiopia and Kenya is highly endangered with only ~3000 individuals left. Today the main threats are climate change induced droughts, competition with livestock and infrastructure development. That’s why the Wildlife Fund supports a Marwell Wildlife project, the Norther Kenya Grevy’s zebra Project (NKGP). Marwell monitors the status, distribution and wellbeing of the species in the far north of the country.
The work of Marwell includes maintaining a network of 24 scouts and camera traps. The scouts also go on regular foot patrols where they keep track of the animals they encounter on their GPS phone. By collecting this information, they can analyse where Grevys are eating and drinking, what behaviour they display and how they connect with other subpopulations. For example: where and how much do the zebra graze and where do they find water sources. If the scouts see that food becomes spare during a drought, they raise the alarm and Marwell will start supplying extra hay to help the animals through the hard times. This was the case in 2021 and the drought is still ongoing. Together with partners further south in the country, Marwell has been feeding the Grevys for a whole year saving many zebra lives.
On the camera images, but also during patrols, the scouts not only keep an eye on the zebras, but also note all other wild animals they encounter. They mostly see elephants, gerenuk (gazelles with a very long neck), jackals and ostrich, but also cheetah and caracals (a catlike animal with long legs). The scouts also keep an eye on whether poachers are at work and whether animals are injured. If so, they will report this to local wardens, so that a veterinarian can intervene.
Thanks to the gift of the DierenPark Amersfoort Wildlife Fund, the salaries of fifteen scouts could be paid for six months in 2021 and they were trained in new data collection software for their phones. Do you also think it is important that endangered animals are protected? Then take a look at this page and discover what you can do!
The Amersfoort Wildlife Fund also supported this project in the period 2009-2013. At that time, research was first carried out on the stripe pattern of Grévy’s zebras in Marwell Zoo on the south coast of England. A computer programme has been developed that can read the stripes like a bar code. This programme is used for photos of Grevy’s zebra in the field to different individuals apart as every single zebra has a unique pattern. As a result, there is much better insight into the numbers, the size of the herds and the migration movements in the field.
The situation of the Grévy’s zebra remains worrisome. Drought, poaching and competition at the watering holes with herders with their cows and goats are the main threats. Based on the insights gained from the data collected, measures can be taken in the coming years to support the Grevy’s.