Kenya’s drought wipes out 2% of the world’s rarest zebras



A devastating two-year drought in Kenya has wiped out 2% of the world’s rare zebra species and increased elephant deaths, as the climate crisis takes its toll on the East African country’s wildlife.

Decomposing animal carcasses on the ground – including giraffes and cattle – have become a common sight in northern Kenya, where unprecedented dry spells are chipping away at already depleted food and water resources.

Gravy’s zebra, the world’s rarest zebra species, has been the species most affected by the drought.

Founder and Executive Director of Gravy’s Zebra TrustBelinda Lo Mackey told CNN that the species’ mortality rate will only increase if the region does not receive significant rainfall.

“If the rainy season fails, Gravy’s zebras face a very serious risk of starvation,” he said. “Since June, we have lost 58 Gravy’s zebras and the death toll is increasing as the drought intensifies.”

Even the most drought-resistant animals are affected. One is the camel, which is known to survive Long periods without water.

“Camels are a valuable resource for many people in the region,” Suze van Meegen, emergency response manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council in East Africa, told CNN. “The deserts of Kenya … are now littered with their corpses.”

Kenya is on the brink of its fifth failed rainy season and its Meteorological Department predicts “Drier than average conditions” For the rest of the year.

Conservationists worry that many more endangered species will die out.

“If the next rains fail … we can expect to see a significant increase in elephant mortality,” says Frank Pope, who heads the Kenya-based conservation charity. Save the elephants.

“We’re seeing herds split into the smallest units … as they try to make a living,” he said. “Calves are being abandoned, and older elephants are dying. Without rain, others will soon follow.”

As the dry spell continues, more endangered wildlife is rapidly disappearing.

The drought is also disrupting hunting for bushmeat, which has increased in pastoralist communities in the north as the drought affects other sources of income.

In some areas, Gravy’s zebras are being hunted in grazing reserves.

“Drought has increased Gravy’s zebra predation as large numbers of livestock have congregated in grazing reserves,” Mackey said. “This has led to inter-ethnic conflicts (sometimes with animals caught in the crossfire) and poaching, as herders resort to wildlife.”

Human-wildlife conflict has also fueled the killing of dozens of elephants forced into close contact with humans as they chase dwindling sources of food and water, Save the Elephants’ Pope said.

An elephant walks towards a nearby river at Kimana Sanctuary in Kajiado, Kenya on September 25, 2022.

“Last year, we lost half the elephants in conflict with people for poaching at the height of the ivory crisis 10 years ago,” he tells CNN.

About 400 elephants were poached 10 years ago, the highest in Kenya since 2005. 2012 report by the National Wildlife Service.

While Government action against the ivory trade has stopped ivory poaching in Kenya, Hunting for bush meat continues Due to drought and rising food prices.

Since October 2020, four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in parts of Kenya and the Greater Horn of Africa. The United Nations says it belongs to the region The worst drought in 40 years.

More than 4 million Kenyans are “food insecure” due to the drought and more than 3 million people do not have access to adequate drinking water.

Gravy’s Zebra Trust says it is helping the endangered species survive drought through supplementary feeding.

Gravy's Zebra Trust provides supplemental pollen to help the endangered Gravy's Zebra survive the drought crisis in northern Kenya.

“We have a dedicated feeding team in each of the three national reserves (Sambru, Buffalo Springs and Shaba). On average we are using 1,500 bales (of supplemental hay) per week,” Mackie said, adding that other species such as oryx and buffalo are also benefiting.

However, intervention on such a scale can make appreciable difference for elephants, Pope says.

“Providing new water sources can be counter-productive, for example, causing local desertification,” he said. “Save the Elephants focuses on helping local people protect themselves from conflict (with stray elephants) and help respond to incidents when conflict occurs.

Pope also worries that when the rains finally come, there could be less grass due to overgrazing by cattle.

“A major concern is overgrazing which is starting to turn the fragile landscape into desert. When it rains there will be less grass, even as the pressure on the landscape increases.

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