Nature today | Devastating drought in Kenya puts Grévy’s zebra at risk

Unfortunately, the rainy season in northern Kenya has seen little rain for the fourth year in a row, and the drought is the worst in 40 years. The drought is expected to continue in the coming months. This makes the work of Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) more important than ever: it is the only organization in the world completely dedicated to preserving this unique species of zebra.

animals and people

The future of Grévy’s zebras in this region is closely linked to the resilience of the communities with which they share the landscape. Both zebras and communities are under pressure: their territories are fragmented and the soil is depleted. In addition, their access to water is limited, uncertainty and disease lurk. We work with GZT on solutions that can offer humans and zebras a better future.

GZT believes that the survival of the Grévy zebra depends on its ability to coexist with humans. The fund helps improve the resilience of societies and adapt to modern realities. Only in this way can they protect their rural communities, and only in this way can wild animals survive.

response to unprecedented drought

Grassland and water available are limited. As a result, the displacement of livestock by Grévy’s zebra is increasing. Together with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the folks at GZT regularly assess the physical condition of Grévy’s zebras. That’s why they work with a wide network of monitors across the country. They also keep track of the status and availability of available water and food. If the team determines that there is not enough grass and water, they will assess the health of Grévy’s zebra and feed the animals as necessary. Thanks to the additional feeding, zebras are better able to withstand the effects of drought and disease. Access to water is also indispensable for zebras, especially for nursing mothers.


GZT has extensive experience feeding Grévy’s zebras. The organization has been doing this for ten years at times when it is necessary. Building on their knowledge of the habitat and distribution of Grévy’s zebras, the GZT establishes feeding grounds across northern Kenya. It is located in national parks and community lands.

In protected areas, where large numbers of Grévy’s zebras can often be found, food is served during the day and at several locations. The team works from dawn to dusk, and the heat makes the work physically exhausting. All the people involved in this project are losing a lot of livestock due to drought. This makes their work to keep the Grévy donkeys alive so impressive and inspiring.

In communal areas where cattle are also grazing, zebras are fed at night, when the cattle are sleeping. Food is deposited along paths that zebras use to walk to watering holes. With cameras, the team keeps track of when the animals eat hay, and how many animals they use. If any hay remains, the cattle eat it later. GZT is active in local communities to create support for their work.

At all feeding sites, staff make sure that they place the hay in a new location to prevent contamination with excreta. To ensure that zebras do not have to fight for food, they do not put them in a heap, but in a queue.

get water

In dry spells, access to clean water becomes a challenge: nearby water sources are drying up. In remote areas where water is scarce, it is essential to improve the availability of water for livestock and zebras. For Grévy’s zebras and other wildlife, GZT manages water availability in two ways. The organization hires community water rangers to drill shallow wells for wildlife in dry riverbeds. With cameras, GZT tracks the use of this. In addition, GZT provides fuel to communities so they can pump water for livestock. During the day the cattle drink from the drinking troughs and at night the wild animals drink.

Funding and emergency aid

To assist the GZT in the current drought crisis, IFAW recently pledged emergency financial assistance. GZT has already purchased more than 4,000 bales of straw. It is expected that staff will have to feed zebras in more locations if the drought continues. Transporting feed and fuel for distribution and monitoring accounts for the most costs. Fuel prices in Kenya have nearly doubled in the past year. It is also important to take care of the health of the staff and volunteers who do this hard work. In cooperation with the GZT, IFAW works for a better future for animals and humans, especially with climate disasters occurring all over the world.

Text: IFAW
Images: Grevy’s Zebra Trust/IFAW

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