Nairobi, June 25 – The results of the latest count of Grevy’s zebras, one of seven remaining species of equids left on the planet, show that their numbers in Kenya have risen from 2,350 to 2,812, with most of the increase observed in the counties of Isiolo and Marsabit.
Overall, the counties found to have the largest populations in 2018 (Laikipia, Samburu and Meru) showed no statistically significant change, according to the findings of the census, commonly known as Great Grevy’s Zebra Rally, which also counts the endangered reticulated giraffes.
The Rally, a citizen science event, is carried out by members of the public searching for Gravy’s zebras and reticulated giraffes by driving throughout the animals’ range, often repeatedly covering the same routes, and photographing every Grevy’s zebra seen over two consecutive days. The first Great Grevy’s Rally took place in January 2016.
In the 1970s Grevy’s zebras roamed widely in the semi-arid habitats throughout the Horn of Africa. In Kenya alone, there were over 15,000. They were typically seen in Samburu, Isiolo and Marsabit counties.
By the late 1980s, the range had shrunk and numbers had dropped to around 4,000 because of over-hunting for their beautiful skins. Despite a ban on the skin trade, they continued to decline due to hunting for subsistence meat, loss of habitat and competition with livestock for forage and water. By the early 2000s, only about 2,000 Grevy’s zebras were estimated to remain.
According to the authors of the 2018 Great Gravy’s Rally zebra report, the fact that over 70 per cent of Kenya’s Grevy’s zebras are now identified individually, a national data base is emerging. Pictures taken by scientists, scouts, camera traps and tourists during the intervening years between Great Grevy’s Rallies will provide fine-grained data on locations, associations, movements and habitat use as impacted by climate change and human activity.
They noted that the largest populations are in Laikipia County which has become the hottest spot for both reticulated giraffes and Grevy’s zebras. If Laikipia’s rangelands and their use continue to be managed sustainably, then giraffe numbers should increase and the county has the potential become the source of individuals which should disperse, thus increasing population sizes elsewhere.
The Rally generated an estimated of 2,309 reticulated giraffes inhabiting the semi-arid areas of central and northern Kenya.