International Zebra Day takes place on the 31st January every year. The goal of the day is to help raise awareness of the zebra's decline and to find new ways their populations can be preserved and protected. There are currently 3 living zebra species; the Grevy's zebra, the plains zebra, and the mountain zebra. The Grevy's zebra is considered endangered and the population has gone down by over 54% over the past three decades. In fact, only 3,000 Grevy's Zebras remain in the wild. The Grevy’s zebra live in Ethiopia and the northern regions of Kenya, with Kenya having much higher numbers of them than Ethiopia.
Image via African Wildlife Foundation
Grevy's zebra were the first of the zebra species to evolve after donkeys, and they are the largest equid species. The Grevy's zebra is distinguished from the more common plain zebra species by some main characteristics which include;
- narrower stripes
- taller height
- a white belly
- large, fuzzy ears
- a brown muzzle
- a black dorsal stripe (the stripe running down the back to the tip of the tail)
In Kenya, hunting Grevy’s zebra for their skins caused their rapid decline in the 1970's until a total hunting ban was enforced in 1977. Since the 1970's, new threats have arisen which play a significant role in reducing the Grevy’s zebra population. The main threats to this zebra species come from habitat destruction due to infrastructure developments and competition with livestock animals. The reduction of water sources also poses a large threat to the Grevy's zebra.
Due to the species worrying decline, the Grevy’s Zebra Task Force was formed in 2004, chaired by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Kenya's ultimate vision is "to have viable populations of Grevy’s zebra in their natural habitat, functioning in healthy ecosystems and valued locally and globally." Good things are happening, and progress is slowly but surely being made to protect the Grevy's zebra. Organisations such as Grevy's Zebra Trust work tirelessly on the ground to protect the current Grevy's population and to support them to grow.
To support GZT and help save the Grevy's zebra, you can donate here.