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TheGreatGrevy’sRally:Rally toSave theGrevy’sZebra
n March 2015, President Uhuru
Kenyatta marked Kenya’sWildlife
Festival by burning 25 tons of
Kenya’s ivory stockpile. The day was
also marked by a unique event where
KenyaWildlife Service (KWS), Wildlife
Direct and the Image-Based Ecological
Information Systems (IBEIS) team,
harnessed the power of Kenyan citizens
to participate and contribute to scientific
research. In Nairobi National Park, 75
photographers in 31 vehicles took about
10,000 images of plains zebra andMaasai
giraffe fromwhich scientistswere able to
determinehow theseanimalsused thepark
before the onset of the rains. Each zebra
and giraffe has unique markings which
allows the scientific analysis software to
identify each one individually. Through
this two-day citizen science event, 2,300
plains zebras and 130 giraffes were
estimated to be present in the park at that
An estimated 2,800Grevy zebras exist
in the wild, and over 90% of the total
population is found in Kenya. Not only
is this the largest zebra species, but it is
also themost endangeredzebra specieson
the planet. Until now, it has been difficult
to know exactly howmanyGrevy zebras
exist in Kenya. Population estimates
range from 1,700 to 2,600 individuals.
However, with new technology now
available, we not only have the ability to
accuratelyestimate thepopulationbutalso
to determine the demographic structure
(age and sex) of the species across its
range. This will allow us to identify
vulnerable populations that require more
conservation attention. To achieve this
goal, the Great Grevy’s Rally (GGR)
was conceived by members of Kenya’s
Grevy’s ZebraTechnical Committee.
Based on the success of the citizen
science event held in Nairobi National
Park, wildlife conservationists are
planning to utilise the vast potential held
by ordinary citizens to determine how
many Grevy zebras there are in Kenya.
Not only will this inform Grevy’s zebra
conservation management, but it will
also introduce Kenyan citizens to this
beautiful species and the spectacular
northern landscapes that it inhabits. This
will be the first ever range-wide census
of Grevy zebras. The GGR invites eager
andadventurousmembersof thepublic to
participate in this unique event that will
raise awareness and contribute invaluably
to the conservation of this flagship
How theGGRwillwork
On the 30th and 31st of January 2016,
scientists, landowners, conservancy
managers and members of the public
will drive through designated areas in
northern Kenya and photographically
record everyGrevy’s zebraobservedover
has a unique stripe pattern, similar to the
unique nature of human fingerprints, and
this is the information participants will
aim to capture. The first 70 teams to sign
up to the GGR will be assigned a GPS
enabled digital camera to photograph the
right-side flank of each Grevy’s zebra.
The camera will simultaneously record
the location, time and date to be used in
theanalysis.Using the IBEISsoftware, all
Grevy zebras photographed over the two-
day period will be individually identified
whichwill allow scientists to estimate the
size and health of national and regional
Grevy’s zebra populations.
The health of the Grevy’s zebra
population is based on its demographic
structure. Once the age and sex
structure of a population is established,
conservationists can determine whether
the population has the potential to
grow. A healthy age structure is one
where juveniles and foals account for
25% of the population. The optimal sex
ratio is three females to one male. The
demographic structure of regional and
national populationswill be analysed and
will inform conservation management
Following the rally, the photographs
will be analysed and results will be
available inApril 2016.
Citizen science isall about growing the
role of the public in scientific research.
Like medicine, speciality knowledge
can be both confusing and intimidating.
Citizen science aims to demystify
scientific research by engaging people
in the process of scientific investigations
and pulling them into asking questions,
collecting data and sharing the results.
Laikipia, and the greater Ewaso
landscape, have embarked on a mission
to be Kenya’s very own Citizen Science
destination.Wewant residentsandvisitors
alike to share in the science of discovery
and to engagewith us in asking questions
that will focus our future efforts, both for
scientific investigation and management
of these key, unique territories and their
This information then becomes rich
material for public feedback,wider public
information sharing, lobbying, advocacy,
funding and the development of new
projects. In essence, we’re increasingly
talking about the “democratisation” of
science, scientific funding, and the use of
scientific results.
The Great Grevy’s Rally is the first
important step in this process. This
scientifically supervised engagement of
the public will yield the first attempted
complete census of the endangeredGrevy
zebras in Kenya. It will contribute to
their conservation and rehabilitation as
a keystone Ewaso Landscape animal. It
will also bring economic, tourism and
PR benefits to the participating counties
and their communities that can be judged
in the millions of shillings. Perhaps the
brand - “Utafiti yaWanainchi”will brand
this landscapewell into the future.
Members of Kenya’s Grevy’s Zebra
Technical Committee along with local
partnersare leading thecharge toorganize
and implement the GGR. The organising
and sponsoring committee includes:
Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Kenya Wildlife
Service, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Lewa
Wildlife Conservancy, Marwell Wildlife,
Mpala Research Centre, Northern
Rangelands Trust, Samburu Trust, Saint
Louis Zoo (USA), Princeton University
(USA) and the county governments of
Isiolo, Laikipia, Marsabit and Samburu.
The IBEIS team, which is supported by
Institute, and funded by
theUSNational ScienceFoundation, will
be conducting the crucial photographic
data analysis to provide results on the
Grevy’s zebras observed.
For more information on how you
can register for the GGR visit www.
Picturescourtesyof the
Save the date
Rallywill beheld on
30th and 31st January
2016 inLaikipia ,
Isiolo, Samburu and
Marsabit counties.
December 2015 IssueNo. 3
1,2,3,4,5 7,8
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