When driving through the semi-arid, deserted plains of Northern Kenya, it’s hard to imagine that an animal as graceful as the Grevy’s Zebra thrives in this environment.
The larger, taller, narrow striped gentle beasts that endowe white bellies, large rounded ears and a brown muzzle blend in in the harsh environment are sadly only about 3,000 in number. 92% of that population is found in Kenya.
The Grevy’s Zebra is now classified as an endangered species after a undergoing one of the most substantial reductions of range of any African mammal, and are found today in only two range states: Kenya and Ethiopia.
Numbers of Grevy’s zebra have declined
from an estimate of 15,000 in the late 1970s to present-day estimates of 3,000 animals representing an 84-87% decline in global numbers.
Their decline is primarily the result of killing for meat, medicinal purposes or sometimes at random; loss of access to critical resources due to competition with domestic livestock; and an increasing scarcity of these resources as a result of over-exploitation. They have however managed to thrive in the Northern parts of Kenya in the Samburu-Laikipia landscape because of their importance to the communities in this area.
Grevy’s Zebra traditionally live in harmony together with the herds of pastoralists because they eat a different type of grass. They primarily eat drier, rougher grass thus leaving the more abundant fresher grass for cattle and other grazers.
They have also been known to lead herders to pasture and water during the dry season. In circumstances where pastoralists want to lead their animals to fresher grounds, they automatically follow the paths of the Grevy’s.
Because they also herd in harmony with other animals, they alert herders and their animals about impending danger from predators.
In the Samburu and Rendille culture, it’s a taboo to eat a Grevy’s Zebra. This is one of the major reasons why they thrive in this part of the country, because they’re revered. Also as mentioned before, it’s hard for a community that heavily relies on the movement of the animal to suddenly decide to hunt for it just because of drought. This is how seriously they take the conservation of the Grevy’s zebra.
What completely blew my mind was the fact that they’ve given this crucial work to some women in the community. In the next post, I’ll explain how the Safaricom Marathon, in partnesrhip with the Grevy’s Zebra Trust is helping uplift women in this part of the country.