Conservation experts from Kenya and Ethiopia met this week to review conservation and management strategies for the endangered Grevy’s zebra that expired last year.
The experts from areas inhabited by Grevy’s zebra attended the two-day workshop in Nanyukito, Kenya, on Wednesday and Thursday to develop a national action plan for the survival of the wild animal.
Participants came from Government, the Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority, organisations, private land owners, and people with an interest in Grevy’s zebra conservation.
Dr Charles Musyoki, who represented the Kenya Wildlife Service director Julius Kipng’etich, said the presence of delegates from Ethiopia showed the importance the two neighbouring countries attached to the process of reviewing the strategy.
Musyoki noted that the previous five-year Grevy’s zebra strategy had made important milestones, including the first structured census for Grevy’s zebra in 2008, recruitment of a full-time national Grevy’s zebra liaison officer, establishment of various community conservancies in Northern Kenya, training of community scouts, enhanced research, and conservation activities.
He said conservation of Grevy’s zebra in both countries was not without challenges.
He said the Kenya Wildlife Service was seeking ways to harmonise conflicting approaches by various species-specific expert groups, especially carnivore and Grevy’s zebra conservationists who work independent of each other.
He said most of the recommendations to ensure the survival of the Grevy’s zebra depend on people’s behaviour and how they relate with the environment.
“Conservation of any species is usually not so much about the species in question but people; what the communities, landowners and management authorities like KWS do,” Musyoki said.
He said plans were under way for a second national Grevy’s zebra census in November this year. The first was held in 2008.
Grevy’s zebra survive only in Kenya and Ethiopia’s semi-arid lands, but ranged historically in Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan, where they went extinct.
Kenya’s estimated national population of 2400 is largely found on the shores of Lake Turkana, Samburu, Marsabit, Laikipia, Meru, Tsavo, Garissa, and Naivasha.
The proposed Wildlife Law would list the Grevy’s zebra among endangered and protected species, as well as listing endangered ecosystems.
Belinda Mackey, of the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, noted that the Grevy’s zebra is most adapted for semi-arid areas, especially north of the equator.
She said they could go for five days without water with the exception of lactating females.
The director of the Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority, Dr Kifle Argaw, underscored the importance of cross-border development of the strategy for managing and conserving the wild animal.
“We need to develop these species strategies together since if any country lags behind, it becomes a headache for the rest.
“We need to jointly push the conservation agenda for the Grevy’s zebra and other species.”
The Grevy’s zebra is protected from any commercial use through its listing on Appendix I of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The species is also classified as endangered by the International Conservation Union (IUCN).
The workshop was told that both Kenya and Ethiopia face shared challenges over poaching for meat and unproven medicinal value, predation, reduced access to water resources and pasture, resource competition, invasion of invasive species and insecurity.
Fanuel Kebede, from the Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority, said cross-border collaboration would enhance the survival of the endangered species.
Dr Paul Muoria, of Nature Kenya, spoke of habitat fragmentation and the expected rapid infrastructural developments of roads, railways and oil pipelines on the Isiolo-Moyale, Lamu-Isiolo-Ethiopia-Sudan routes.
“We should consider these developments as having great tourism potential but bear in mind the looming threat of poaching and habitat loss as well as rapid human population increase.”
The workshop provided an opportunity to update numbers and distribution of Grevy’s zebra in Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as incorporate the inputs and views of stakeholders into a revised five-year strategy for its conservation.