Out of all the unique animals that occupy northern Kenya, the Grevy’s Zebra is easily the most prominent. Known as ‘Punda kanga’ in Kiswahili, it is breathtaking with its white belly, thin stripes and elegant gait. It has been said that you cannot ‘unsee’ a Grevy’s Zebra; the memory of it stays with you forever.
Zebra sub-species in Kenya
Currently, there are two sub-species of zebra found in Kenya: the most well know Plains or Burchell's and the Grevy’s. Undoubtedly the most exquisite spot to witness the Grevy’s is in the Lewa and Borana conservancies in Kenya’s Laikipia region. At last count, this area is home to around 300 animals, which is 11 percent of the global population. Another threatened species, the Mountain Zebra occurs in Southern Africa.
The Grevy’s zebra has been the victim of one of the most extreme decreases in numbers on the continent. It is estimated that there were around 20,000 roaming the plains of northern Kenya in the 1970s. However, poaching and hunting have brought this number down to a despairing 2000.
Conservation is a national effort
At the moment, conservation measures across northern Kenya are maximised from government and communities to private conservancies, all assisting in reversing this decline. As per the last national census, Kenya is home to 2,300 Grevy Zebras, almost 90% of the total world population, meaning that the survival of the animal is inexorably linked to the success of the country’s conservation programmes.
Lewa & Borana conservancies
On Lewa-Borana, efforts to safeguard the Grevy’s include the observing of predator densities, promoting a secure and healthy habitat while maintaining the overall health and well-being of the population, including the foal survival.
“We recognise that our population is key to ensuring the re-emergence of the species in northern Kenya,” said Lewa’s Head of Conservation and Wildlife, Geoffrey Chege.
Chege stated, “Grevy’s zebras are important, environmentally and economically, for Lewa-Borana and Kenya alike. They perform environmental services in dry rangelands that ensure healthy grazing for both livestock and wildlife. They are part of Kenya’s tourism product, offering a unique wildlife sighting. They are an iconic emblem of peace in areas where communities look to them culturally as an indicator of health and prosperity.”
Know your Grevy’s from your Burchells
Grevy’s are considered the largest zebra species and grow to an incredible 275cm long, weigh up to 450kg and are 160cm tall at the shoulder.
These creatures are exceptionally territorial, defending some of the biggest territories of any land herbivore.
Grevy’s are a northern speciality species, they have adapted to living and surviving north of the equator and can survive for a few days without water. They also have white bellies, and their stripes don’t cut across their bodies.
If you want to witness something truly out of this world, then rest assured that viewing these majestic creatures will certainly meet your expectations. You will also play your part in contributing to the conservation of this species by visiting Kenya.