World Zebra Day a Reminder Call for Protection

The world just marked International Zebra Day, observed every year on the 31st of January. With the natural habitat diminishing, these majestic animals are endangered and their population threatened. Founded by a consortium of conservation organizations such as the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the Conservation Biology Institute, International Zebra Day aims to help raise awareness about the living conditions of zebras and how their numbers can be protected from further decline.

Zebras, living in groups called a ‘dazzle’, are mainly found in the savannah of Kenya and Ethiopia and in the hilly areas of Namibia, Angola, and South Africa. There are three types of Zebras; the Grévy’s zebra, the plains zebra, and the mountain zebra. The Grévy’s zebra, almost exclusively only found in Northern Kenya with a population of a little over 2300, accounting for 90% of the world’s Grevy Zebra Population, has faced a steady decline in its population over the past few decades. The population of this unique species known for its striking, tall appearance, thin stripes, and elegant gait, has fallen from 15,000 in the 1970s to the aforementioned.

These devastating figures are mainly attributed to poaching, drought, and habitat loss. Poaching is a menace that has wreaked havoc on wildlife populations greatly affecting biodiversity. The zebras are mainly poached for their pelts and in some instances meat. According to Kenya Wildlife, poaching has gone down by more than 90% in the past six years, signaling a positive precedent in the joint effort of the private sector led by the Shedrick Wildlife Trust and the Government through Kenya Wildlife Service and strong anti-poaching laws.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the Grevy’s Zebra to have undergone one of the most substantial reductions of range of any African mammal. Drought has largely contributed to this sad reality. Coupled with loss of habitat as a result of human activities like farming and residence encroachment, Nairobi National Park is a good case, Zebras are left to compete for water with livestock. Moreover, during drought animals often congregate at remaining water sources, increasing the chance of disease.

James Isiche, Africa Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says, that as climate change worsens, causing more extreme weather events that endanger vulnerable wildlife, responses must be strengthened. IFAW is working with Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) to ensure the zebra’s survival on multiple fronts. These include situation monitoring, in which GZT staff keep track of the zebras’ health as well as the availability of critical resources such as food and water.

It is important that stakeholders in wildlife conservation and state entities form strong partnerships that will pulsate into the general population to ensure wildlife conservation and protection of our habitat, hence leading to a safe environment for biodiversity.

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