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Heading North

Today I’m heading off to northern Kenya on “the big trip” several colleagues and I have been planning for almost two years now.

The purpose of the trip is to look for remnant populations of Grevy’s zebra in the vast area of northern Kenya. Historically, this area was the heart of the Grevy’s range. Now, Grevy’s are found almost exclusively in the far southern part of their former range, in Samburu and Laikipia districts. (Interestingly, Grevy’s were never found in Laikipia until a few decades ago; now, Laikipia – where I do most of my work – is home to more than a third of the remaining Grevy’s).

The area north of Laikipia and stretching on up to the border with Ethiopia is a huge, arid terrain with very little infrastructure. It is in many ways the “Wild West” of Kenya – where livestock rustling and banditry still prevail. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be traveling up through the “frontier” town of Laisamis, continuing north along the eastern edge of Lake Turkana, then northeast to the Ethiopian border, down to the Chalbi Desert, and back down to Samburu and Laikipia through Marsabit. See the map below prepared by my colleagues Guy and Zeke from Marwell Wildlife:

Based on past surveys and anecdotal information, we only expect there to be a few hundred Grevy’s left in this large area. We know little about Grevy’s in this area because of its remoteness and poor infrastructure. During the trip, we’ll be looking for zebras and trying to figure out what steps might be taken to save them. We’ll be interviewing local people to learn where they may have seen Grevy’s (and any other wildlife), what they know about Grevy’s conservation status, and what threats there might be to Grevy’s in those areas.

With this information, we hope to identify areas where conservation projects and investment might help to save – and ideally rehabilitate – remnant Grevy’s populations.

I’ll be traveling along with a group of close collaborators from Grevy’s Zebra Trust and Marwell Wildlife. We’ll be a total of 13 people in three Land Cruisers. We’ll have to take all our fuel and provisions for the whole trip, finding water along the way wherever we can. We’ll have a satellite phone for emergency communications, but I won’t be able to post anything to the blog until I come back. Corinna will be posting some updates.

I’ll ook forward to telling you about the trip when I get back in late February!