Black and White and Endangered All Over
Close your eyes and picture an African savanna. What animals did you see?
Chances are that you imagined at least one zebra. The zebra, with its characteristic stripes, is an iconic part of the African savanna. There are different species, or types, of zebras, but perhaps the most well-known species is the Grevy’s zebra. Grevy’s zebras stand out from other zebra species because of their large size and mule-ish ears.
Reid Park Zoo is lucky to be home to two Grevy’s zebras, Ben and Anna, and Anna is expecting a foal this summer. As a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (known as AZA), Reid Park Zoo participates in the Grevy’s zebra Species Survival Plan (SSP). The goal of the Grevy’s zebra SSP is to ensure a genetically healthy population of Grevy’s zebras in AZA member zoos, and to support Grevy’s zebra conservation in Africa. Ben and Anna came to Reid Park Zoo in April 2019 with a breeding recommendation from the Grevy’s zebra SSP program leaders.
There’s another trait that separates Grevy’s zebras from other zebras — they are endangered, with only about 2,000-3,000 individuals remaining in Kenya and Ethiopia of eastern Africa. One of the biggest threats to their survival is habitat loss and transformation, such as from drought. Researchers studying Grevy’s zebras have created a computer system that can identify individual zebras by their unique stripe patterns. They even rely on citizen scientists to submit any pictures they took of a Grevy’s zebra in Africa. All of these images help researchers learn how the zebras are using their habitat so they can work to best protect zebras and any other animals that call that habitat home.
Even if a trip to Africa is not in your near future, you can help protect animals like Grevy’s zebras by visiting Reid Park Zoo, once we can safely reopen. Not only will you get to see these amazing animals in person, but your support allows us to help save imperiled species around the world.