The Grevy's Zebra
Lifespan: 20 yrs
Gestation Period: 13 months
Est. Population: 2,000
Habitat: Grasslands & Savannas
Range: Primarily Southern Ethiopia & Northern Kenya
Is the largest & most threatened of the wild equine, weighing between 350-450 kgs. Its distinctive features are its larger ears, long legs, black dorsal stripe & narrower set side stripes in its coat, unique to each individual.
Grevy’s are water dependent animals, they follow seasonal rains migrating to suitable grazing lands. They can go without water for up to five days, but females with young foals must drink at least every other day. Foals are also dependent on their mothers milk until they reach 6 - 8 months of age. They can mate and give birth year-round, but most mating takes place in the early rainy seasons and births mostly take place in August or September after the long rains. Their young are able to run 6 minutes after birth. They do not form harems like other zebras do, they have a lose social structure without lasting relationships. Instead, stallions are territorial and will mate with females in their territory, and females are generally social and only protective over their young. Stallions that are unable to establish territories will form bachelor herds and associate with other males in a friendly manner.
The Grevy’s zebra once inhabited the semiarid scrublands and plains of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Kenya in East Africa. However, due to rapid declines in their population, they are now confined to the Horn of Africa.
- Habitat Loss
- Competition with livestock for resources
In the past, Grévy's zebras were threatened mainly by hunting for their striking skins which fetched a high price on the world market. However, hunting has declined in recent years and the main threat to the zebra is habitat loss and competition with livestock.
With land degradation worsening each year, the distance between available grazing and water increases. This means that Grevy's zebra mothers have to make long and more frequent journeys, resulting in high foal mortality.
Unfortunately less than 0.5% of the range of the Grevy’s Zebra is in protected areas. In Ethiopia, the protected areas include Alledeghi Wildlife Reserve,Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary, Borana Controlled Hunting Area and Chalbi Sanctuary. In Kenya, important protected areas include the Buffalo Springs, Samuru and Shaba National Reserves and the private and community land wildlife conservancies in Isiolo, Samburu and the Laikipia Plateau.
Another factor that has affected populations in Ethiopia was the introduction of mesquite plant. An invasive species, it is replacing the two grass species, Cenchrus ciliaris and Chrysopogon plumulosus, which are a key component in the Grevy's diet.
Community-based conservation has shown to be most effective in preserving Grevy’s Zebras and their habitat, as seen in Samburu District. Many local communities are hired to protect and monitor populations - this provides them with additional employment opportunities.
In Kenya, The Grevy's Zebra Trust hosts a yearly census called The Great Grevy’s Rally. Citizen scientists, conservationists, national and county governments, KWS, scientists, local conservancies and organizations work together to cover over 25,000 square km of land, counting individual Grevy’s Zebras. Using sophisticated stripe recognition software to analyze the number of sighted and re-sighted individuals over two consecutive days, thus giving the population size of Grevy’s zebras in northern Kenya. This methodology also provides insights on the age and sex structure of the Grevy’s zebra population in each area to assess the status of populations.
Other international organizations are working together to employ technology for Grevy’s Conservation. Fitting individuals with collars that utilize GPS/GSM, providing scientists with information on movement patterns and whereabouts. By gaining this valuable information, scientists are able to monitor and strategize for solutions.
The Grevy's zebra is legally protected in Ethiopia. In Kenya, it is protected by the hunting ban of 1977.