25 endangered Grevy’s zebra translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

25 endangered Grevy’s zebra translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Twenty-five endangered Grevy’s zebra have successfully been translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to Sera
Wildlife Community Conservancy; the latest in a series of moves aimed at boosting biodiversity in East Africa’s first and only community-run black rhino sanctuary.

The move was a partnership between Sera Community Conservancy, the Northern Rangelands Trust, the Kenya Wildlife Service, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, USAID, The Nature Conservancy, DANIDA and many more.

The exercise marks the first translocation of Grevy’s zebra to a community protected area and highlights the critical lead role that communities are taking in endangered species conservation in northern Kenya.

“We are ecstatic that the exercise went on smoothly and with the tremendous dedication of community members and wildlife experts including the Kenya Wildlife service,” said Anthony Wandera, Northern Rangelands Trust Senior Research and Monitoring officer.

Sera Rhino Sanctuary, within the Sera Community Wildlife Conservancy, already hosts 19 Grevy’s zebra. It is hoped the new additions will diversify the gene pool, lead to increased birth rates, and ultimately help to ensure the long-term survival of the Grevy’s zebra.

The 107 square kilometer Sera Rhino Sanctuary was established in 2015 by the Sera community, and is currently home to 16 critically endangered black rhino, amongst other endangered or threatened species, who are all thriving under community stewardship. The Sanctuary employs 84 community members and generated Ksh.6 million in 2019 for the Sera community through a partnership with Saruni Lodges, which funds conservancy operations and livelihoods projects.

Grevy’s zebra have a few visible differences to the more common plains zebra. They are taller and have narrower stripes that stop at the belly (plains zebra have stripes that continue all the way under their middle).

Grevy’s zebra have a black dorsal stripe (much like a donkey) and have larger, more rounded ears than plains zebra. Unlike plains zebra, Grevy’s inhabit arid and semi-arid areas.

“In Kenya, majority of the Grevy’s zebra populations are found in the northern parts of the country, with Lewa being host to approximately 12% of the total global population. Working with partners like NRT, GZT, KWS and others to provide expanded safe and secure habitats for them to thrive, is a conservation win for all of us” said Dr. Geoffrey Chege, Head of Conservation & Wildlife at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

According to the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, the species has undergone one of the most substantial reductions of range of any African mammal. Historically, they were found more widely across the Horn of Africa, but today, Grevy’s zebra are considered extirpated in Somalia and are found only in central and northern Kenya and southern and north-eastern Ethiopia.

In the late 1970s, the global population of Grevy’s zebra was estimated to be 15,000. Today, an estimated 3,042 animals remain, representing an approximate 80% decline in global numbers. The 2018 estimate was 2,812 Grevy’s zebra in Kenya and 230 in Ethiopia.

“The long-term survival of Grevy’s zebra will hinge on not only stabilising population declines, but on promoting population growth in northern Kenya, which is their stronghold,” said Ruben Lendira, Sera Community Conservancy manager.

“I am very proud that Sera can play a part in the future of the Grevy’s zebra, and looking forward to when we can nurture a population big enough that we can eventually release animals across the landscape.”

The joint exercise is a continued effort to reinforce the existing population and create a viable breeding population of Grevy’s zebra as outlined in the Recovery and Action Plan for Grevy’s Zebra in Kenya (2017 – 2026) published by the Kenya Wildlife Service.