Prospero World are proud to present Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) from Kenya.
Who are the Grevy’s Zebra Trust?
The Grevy's Zebra Trust (GZT) was established in January 2007 to address the urgent need to conserve Grevy's Zebra in the community rangelands of Kenya and Ethiopia. GZT are an independent wildlife conservation Trust registered in Kenya and the only organisation 100% dedicated towards saving the endangered Grevy’s Zebra.
Prospero World was delighted to formally adopt the Grevy’s Zebra Trust in September 2020.
What are Grevy’s Zebra?
Grevy’s zebra are one of three species of zebra, (the others being Plains or Common Zebra and Mountain Zebra) and are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Today, the wild population of Grevy’s zebra is estimated to be just over 3,000. Their largest threats come from loss of habitat, competition with livestock, and poaching. They have disappeared from most of their former habitats and are now only found in dry deserts and open grasslands in northern Kenya and southeastern Ethiopia.
Named after former President of France, Jules Grévy, after being gifted a zebra by Emperor of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), Menelik II, in 1882, Grevy’s zebra are the largest of all wild equine species at around 450kg. They can be distinguished from other zebra by the following features:
What do GZT do?
Recognising that the survival of the Grevy’s zebra depends on its ability to coexist with people living in northern Kenya, GZT believes these communities must be at the centre of designing and driving conservation efforts. GZT works in partnership with communities from long-term monitoring Grevy’s zebra as citizen scientists, to co-designing site-specific and tailored solutions to threats facing the species. In all of its work, GZT seeks ways to use data and information to inform decisions and solutions for positive conservation outcomes.
The primary goals of GZT are:
Community rangelands management: to ensure resilient and effectively managed rangelands support communities, their livestock and wildlife across northern Kenya.
Grevy’s zebra monitoring and management: to actively measure the health of Grevy’s zebra populations through monitoring, and support their survival through targeted veterinary and supplementary feeding and water management interventions.
Low impact infrastructure development: to mitigate negative impacts on Grevy’s zebra populations from infrastructure development in northern Kenya.
GZT’s flagship Grevy’s Zebra Scout Program has been operating in northern Kenya since 2003 and employs 29 Grevy’s Zebra Scouts from seven different communities to monitor Grevy’s zebra and foster positive attitudes towards the species.
The Grevy’s Zebra Trust has an exceptionally committed team who work tirelessly to further the goals of Grevy’s zebra conservation. The field team is based in Samburu 100% of the time, while accounts and administration are done from the Nairobi office. Under the supervision and leadership of the field team is a dedicated team of women and men employed from local communities in the capacity of Grevy’s Zebra Scouts, Ambassadors and Warriors.
The GZT team tell us more.
How did the idea of GZT come about?
Belinda Low Mackey, Co-Founder and Executive Director:
From 2001, I was very fortunate to work for the Earthwatch Institute on their “Zebras of Kenya” project at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Although I was born and grew up in Kenya, I had no idea that Grevy’s zebra were in such trouble. I became very interested in what was happening across their wider range in Kenya, where they live alongside pastoralist communities who keep livestock. Lewa fitted radio-collars on some Grevy’s zebra in these community-owned areas, and it became clear from the collar data and being on the ground, that these communities were living with significant populations of Grevy’s zebra.
In 2003, we started the Grevy’s Zebra Scout Programme with the Samburu community, which employed community members to collect data on Grevy’s zebra when they encountered them while doing traditional lifestyle activities such as herding livestock, or fetching water. The data collected by the Grevy’s Zebra Scouts showed us which areas were seasonal and breeding hotspots for the species, and critically, the scouts were instrumental in raising awareness within their communities about Grevy’s zebra. This led to behaviour change in areas where the scouts were active, with herders controlling their dogs around wildlife, and water sources being made available for wildlife. We realised that there were many more remote areas where we needed to understand how the Grevy’s zebra population was doing and what conservation interventions were needed. Together with Martha Fischer from the Saint Louis Zoo, who is a champion for the species within the Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) community in the US, and the late James Munyugi, who was the Community Director for the Northern Rangelands Trust, and an expert in community-led conservation approaches, we started the Grevy’s Zebra Trust in 2007. The Trust was built upon the solid foundation laid by the Grevy’s Zebra Scouts, which is what I believe has led to our success.
What makes your work special?
Sheila Funnell, Program Manager:
My work is special because I absolutely love what I do – I never have questions in my mind about my career, I am doing what I love. Even though our organisation is quite small, we have so much impact. We are very authentic; we have integrity which is such an important part of our work.
Julius Lekenit, Governance and Partnerships Manager:
First of all, it’s working with the local community. I always feel really energized and inspired because when I am talking with them or having a community meeting, and when I see the women, the elders, etc., I always connect them with my mother; it goes back to my family. I relate the challenges they are facing with my own story. So working with them, and supporting them, inspires me and gives me energy. It’s just like I am supporting my own mother. Also, what makes our work special is our team. The support we give each other inspires us and makes us one family.
What has been the most inspiring story you have seen as a result of the work you are doing?
Sheila: Recently, it’s been the work of Ngeeti Lempate and what she’s been doing to rehabilitate grasslands in her village. Ngeeti (known as ‘Mama Grevy’ by her community), is one of our longest-serving Grevy’s Zebra Scouts who recently transitioned to the role of a Grassland Champion (here she is pictured below).
I’ve been so inspired by how Ngeeti has taken the lead within her community to rehabilitate rangelands where she has been able to show her power and influence as a woman - beyond the social norms in her culture - to do something good for her community. She has done it without the support of elders and men – for her she needed to do it and she’s shown just how powerful she can be because now elders have jumped on board and are also taking on the work beside her. She brought other women into this effort and they are having an impact. I find it particularly inspiring because it’s that community-level approach with women, where they have surpassed the expectations the community has of women, and they have made one of the biggest and most tangible differences in rangeland health that we have seen.
What is a typical day for you and your team?
Julius: Most of the time, especially if I am in the field, I wake up very early and go running. Then I read some inspiring stories or quotes and then take my breakfast. I usually make some phone calls to my colleagues in the field to get updates. Then, depending on the plans for the week, I follow my weekly goals. These could include driving out to verify a poaching incident, facilitating a community meeting under a tree about planning for regenerative grazing, or meeting our Grevy’s Zebra Warriors to download their photos.
(Pictured: Julius (right) and Hargurah (left), the head of our Grevy’s Zebra Warriors)
What would your organisation do tomorrow with an unrestricted donation of £10,000?
Julius: Putting that money aside until we raise enough to buy a car which will help to ease the logistics in El Barta and Laisamis. This is because we can’t reach many areas in El Barta on foot or motorbike as they are too remote and insecure. But having a vehicle and teaming up with our partners to go into these areas makes sure we can more effectively address insecurity and the resulting poaching. In Laisamis, the terrain is very difficult for motorbikes and having a vehicle to facilitate Joshua, our Regional Coordinator for the area, to visit partners on the ground will strengthen GZT’s collaboration with the local community and our partners.
Sheila: Invest in more women grassland champions because the work they are doing is absolutely amazing – can you imagine if we were able to scale that up?
What is the biggest challenge you face as an organisation?
Julius: We cover a very large area and we are a very small organisation. With more funding, GZT could increase its team and technical capacity and have even more impact on the ground for Grevy’s zebra and for people.
Belinda: Aside from the conservation challenges which our work is set up to address, we have incredible stories from the field coming in all the time, and being able to communicate those to a wider audience is a challenge due to the fact that we do not have a dedicated communications person on our team. Another challenge is securing multi-year funding which can be rare to find in conservation. The majority of our funds are on an annual cycle so we don’t have the security of several years of funding for our long-term programmes.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Sheila: One of the first things I do after I wake up is check the updates on my Slack App to see what the team in the field has posted – their photos, videos and stories inspire and motivate me to continue my work that day. When I’m in the field, what gets me up is just being out in nature.
Julius: I get to see the wild and the natural world. For example, when I run up the Pukur lugga (dry river bed) in front of our camp, I listen to the birds singing, I see the rock hyrax, and occasionally a lesser kudu – just being out there and seeing something new every morning makes me feel alive and gives me energy. And the fact that I am also waking up to talk with the GZT field team and hearing their stories and how they are doing, really inspires me and makes me very strong.