The Grevy's Zebra
Lewa’s more than 300 resident Grevy’s zebra represent a significant proportion of the remaining global population.
Grevy’s zebra are taller than the plains zebra with large, rounded ears and thin, elegant stripes. They have a wide black stripe running the length of their back and a conspicuously white belly and rump – giving rise to their Kiswahili name “Punda kanga” or white rumped zebra. The plains zebra live in close family groups or herdstaking for safety in numbers. Conversely, Grevy’s stallions are solitary and territorial, and there is little cohesion between the female and bachelor herds.
Lewa currently hosts 11% of the global wild population remaining in East Africa. The Lewa Grevy's zebra population, unlike the rest found in the wilds of northern Kenya, is lucky to not face problems such as competition for resources, mainly water and pasture, from livestock. This sub-population is critical in the global context as it is one of the populations surviving inside a protected area. It is not faced with negative anthropogenic factors that threaten other populations that survive outside protected areas in northern Kenya.
The threat from predation
Lewa's population main threat is however from predation. The Grevy’s rangeland often overlaps that of the lion and the Research Department monitors lion kills carefully to ensure that the Grevy’s are not suffering disproportionate losses. Using faecal analysis it has been shown that Grevy’s zebra are selected in greater proportion to their availability - meaning that the percentage of Grevy’s zebra in lion diet was higher than the percentage of Grevy’s zebra as a proportion of the prey base.
With our partners - Marwell Wildlife, The Grevy's Zebra Trust and Al Ain Zoo - the Research Department continues to carry out a monitoring programme for this endangered species with key focus on reduction of mortality rates, survival, recruitment rates of foals and range improvement.
Grevy’s zebra are important environmentally, economically and politically for Lewa and Kenya alike. They perform environmental services in dry rangelands that ensure healthy grazing for both livestock and wildlife. They are part of Kenya’s tourism product, offering a unique wildlife sighting. They are an iconic emblem of peace in areas where communities look to them culturally as an indicator of health and prosperity. As an endangered species, Lewa’s Grevy’s zebra will continue to be a focus of attention and a source of information guiding conservation not only on the Conservancy but beyond its boundaries in future.