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A first for conservation in Kenya: Rallying citizens, scientists and conservationists to count and save the world's rarest zebra

February 04, 2016

Kenya is home to over 90% of the world's remaining Grevy's zebra, and it is the decisions that we make today that will determine the future of this iconic species.

A stunningly beautiful but endangered zebra stands tall in northern Kenya, and most people in the country have never heard of it, let alone seen it. 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 remain, and population estimates range from 1,700 to 2,600 individuals.

Until now, it has been difficult to know exactly how many Grevy’s zebra exist in Kenya. However, with new technology now available, 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.

In light of this, conservation organisations working in the landscape that is home to the Grevy's zebra combined their efforts, with invaluable support from the respective county governments, to organise an event that would help record the number of individual animals and their distribution across the landscape. Lewa, as home to the largest resident population, was a partner in the event. 

For the first time, citizens were invited to participate directly in the collection of scientific data for the benefit of one of the country's most endangered species, in the event that was dubbed the Great Grevy's Rally. The event took place on the 30-31st of January 2016, across the Lewa, Laikipia, Samburu and Marsabit landscapes.

The Great Grevy’s Rally turned out to be a fun and exciting event for many, and contributed to demystify scientific research that contributes to conservation of wildlife. It is the hope of all participating organisations that this will signal the future of conservation in Kenya, where citizens, conservationists, scientists, and government come together to protect and preserve our country's natural heritage.

The information from the Great Grevy's Rally will inform conservation management and help save them from extinction. 

A citizen science team photograph Grevy's zebra in Laikipia for the Great Grevy's Rally.

The rally was supported by Kenya’s Grevy’s Zebra Technical Committee (GZTC) and was facilitated by the following organisations: Kenya Wildlife Service, Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Marwell Wildlife, Northern Rangelands Trust, county governments of Laikipia, Isiolo and Marsabit and Princeton University.