Kenya is home to over 90% of the world’s remaining Grevy’s Zebras. The 3rd Great Grevy’s Rally will help us determine the population health of this endangered species.
Laikipia Forum joined other conservation organizations and conservancies from Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo, Meru and Marsabit counties for the 2020 edition of the Great Grevy’s Zebra rally. The rally was held on January 25th and 26th 2020 and brought together citizens from across the globe, conservancy organizations, county governments, academic and private sector institutions for this once in a lifetime experience. This year’s rally was joined by the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) with their families participating!
The rally also included Taita Taveta County and Ethiopia as additional target areas. Grevy’s occur naturally in the Afar areas of Hararghe province in Ethiopia; the Taita population has been introduced.
Some 150 citizen scientist teams were allocated various counting blocks within the counties where the Grevy’s Zebras occur. Each team is equipped with a GPS enabled camera and a special set of instructions – to photograph all the Grevy’s Zebras they come across, with a particular focus on the stripe patterns of the right side. Since each zebra pattern is unique, the pictures obtained from the field will be processed and analysed to determine the exact number, sex, age, distribution, range, and relative fitness of all Grevy’s counted in Kenya.
The Grevy’s zebra – easily distinguished by its thin, elegant stripes, striking frame and gait – once freely roamed much of northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and western Somalia. In Kenya alone, it is estimated we had as many as 15,000 individuals in the 1970s. Today, only a small fraction of that number remains. Until a few years ago, it had been difficult to know exactly how many Grevy’s zebras exist in Kenya. However, with computer science, artificial intelligence, and GPS cameras, we have the ability to accurately estimate the population, and therefore inform management decisions that will shape the future of this zebra in Kenya, and of course, its ultimate survival on the planet.
The first biennial Great Grevy’s Rally, held across four counties in 2016, and helped conservationists establish that Kenya was home to 2,350 Grevy’s Zebras.
The second rally held in 2018, was expanded to include more areas, and enabled us to monitor the species across its vast range, where 2,812 Grevy’s zebras were photographed and identified.
The results from both events have indicated a stable population for Kenya, and have been a cause for optimism for the conservation of this rare zebra.
As a continuation in engaging citizen scientists in the collection of this invaluable scientific data, the conservation organisations working in the landscape that is home to the Grevy’s zebra came together once again, with invaluable support from their respective county governments, to organise the rally.
Get ready for the 2020 results to be released later this year, after the computers go through more than 50,000-80,000 images!
Big infrastructure projects, planned for the north, will likely impact the success of the Grevy’s status, so please follow their plight with us. Keep informed; stay engaged!