Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Gorgeous (Endangered) Grevy's Zebra

The Grevy's zebra is endangered, with an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 left in the world, only in Northern Kenya and Ethiopia. I was lucky enough to see several Grevy's while I was in Samburu, Northern Kenya, in October of 2005. To the left is a photo of a male - while you can't see the detail at this size, this male has escaped a recent lion attack. He bears lion claw marks on both hips and his shoulder. Luckily, he got away. Male Gervy's zebra are solitary and have territories, into which they hope herds of females will roam. The females travel in small herds. The photo on the left is a herd stopping for a drink. Every once in awhile they would whirl back due to a crocodile in the river.

The Grevy's zebra is the largest and wildest of Africa's three types of zebra. If you look at a Grevy's vs. a common zebra, you can see that the stripes are much closer together on the Grevy's, and it is also bigger and has larger ears. There are some social differences as well, with common zebra not having solitary males, but rather dominant males in herds with females. I found Grevy's to be gorgeous and mesmerizing animals. When they move, it's easy to get dizzy watching them.

The African Wildlife Foundation has a researcher who studies Grevy's in Samburu. Just two months after I was there, an outbreak of anthrax killed several Gervy's zebras. The AWF acted quickly to try to quarantine animals, minimize the threat, and administer vaccines. It appeared to work, but a few months ago, in September of 2006, there was another anthrax outbreak, and a few more zebra deaths.

Grevy's are hunted by lions and the young fall prey to leopards and cheetahs as well. However, the main threat to the zebras at this time is loss of habitat and loss of migration corridors due to increasing agricultural land use. Only about 10% of the zebra have been found in protected areas.

In the 1970's, there were estimated to be 15,000 Grevy's. The population decline has been dramatic, and if action isn't taken to better understand the Grevy's migration patterns and to act to preserve their habitat, it's doubtful they will last another 30 years.

Samburu was my favorite place in Kenya, not just because of the Grevy's, but partly. Samburu National Park is also a wonderful place to see elephants, which are very friendly there and allow close contact (I saw an elephant born in the wild there, about four feet away!). The park also has plentiful gerenuk, impala, waterbuck, guinea fowl, leopards, cheetah, and oryx (gemsbok), buffalo, gazelles, dik-dik, blue legged ostrich and many more species. If you're going to Kenya, try and plan a stay in Samburu - you will see things there you can't find elsewhere in Kenya.

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