Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa
Location: Horn of Africa
Project Manager: Martha Fischer
Species : Grevy's zebra, mountain nyala, Speke's gazelle, Ethiopian wolf
The WildCare Institute's Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa was established to provide in situ and ex situ conservation support for wildlife of the Horn of Africa. The Saint Louis Zoo has been involved in cooperative ex situ conservation, research and education programs for Horn of Africa wildlife for decades. In recent years, our support has evolved to include in situ conservation initiatives in this region and has benefited many species, including the Center's flagship species, the critically endangered Grevy's zebra. The Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa, in close cooperation with its partners, is currently taking concrete steps that will secure viable wild populations of Grevy's zebra. Likewise, Center activities are addressing similar critical conservation concerns of other unique species, such as the mountain nyala, Speke's gazelle, Somali wild ass, Ethiopian wolf, African elephant, hirola and other Horn of Africa wildlife.
The Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa is playing a key role in sustaining critically endangered wild species and habitats found in this unique and delicate arid region. By supporting community-based coalitions and actively establishing a variety of conservation, research and education programs, this Center is striking a lasting balance between the needs of community members and the imperiled existence of several rare species.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums' 2012 International Conservation Award went to the Zoo and its partners for the "Grevy's Zebra Trust and AZA: A Model of Collaborative Endangered Species Conservation Program." This award recognizes exceptional efforts toward habitat preservation, species restoration, and support of biodiversity in the wild.
A Shared Purpose
In recent years, the countries in the Horn of Africa have endured enormous hardships from drought, famine and political turmoil, and outside assistance is often needed to nurture and grow their fledgling conservation efforts. The Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa supports these efforts by linking dedicated conservationists at zoos with those in the field and fostering partnerships to provide long-term support to wildlife programs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
The largest of all wild equids, the Grevy's zebra, is now considered critically endangered across its range, with less than 150 in Ethiopia and the remainder, perhaps 2000, in northern Kenya. Grevy's zebras are distinguished from other zebras by the intricate pattern of stripes on their skins. Unfortunately this same trait made Grevy's zebra highly prized by trophy hunters in the past; thankfully, such trophy hunting has been outlawed for decades, but illegal poaching for food and medicinal purposes has continued to drive this species toward the precipice of extinction. The process has been accelerated by critical range reduction and competition over scarce resources accompanied by an unprecedented influx of humans and their domestic livestock. These factors have combined to produce a devastating depopulation of this distinctive species, an alarming decline estimated to be as much as 85 percent over the last three decades.
With less than a half of a percent of the Grevy's zebra range falling within official national parks and protected areas, this species' survival depends heavily upon the attitudes and engagement of people in community areas. Toward this end, the Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa supports the Grevy's Zebra Trust, an independent wildlife conservation organization established to address the urgent need to conserve Grevy's zebra in the community rangelands of Ethiopia and Kenya. The Grevy's Zebra Trust is working holistically to secure critical resources and safeguard this species from extinction across its range by engaging communities in the protection and monitoring of Grevy's zebra. Through the Grevy's Zebra Trust, the Center supports community conservation and education programs in both Ethiopia and Kenya. One such program, the Grevy's Zebra Scout Program, supports a number of women and men from Kenyan communities to participate as Grevy's Zebra Scouts, observing and recording the movements and activities of nearby groups of zebras. This successful program provides the benefit of equal-opportunity employment in the participating communities, a direct and tangible community incentive to support conservation activities. Since the inception of this program, the Scouts have served as advocates for Grevy's zebras and for conservation. As a direct result of this program, conducted in tandem with a community awareness campaign, the tolerance of Grevy's zebra within the vicinity of community livestock has significantly increased and the herdsmen now allow the zebras to share the limited grazing and water resources with their livestock.
Follow Grevy's Zebra Trust on Facebook.
The Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa also supports the Northern Rangelands Trust, a community-led initiative that forms a true union of Kenyan communities through field conservation and education programs. Residents of Kalama, one of the fifteen Northern Rangelands Trust communities, have already stepped forward to manage their land and work with Northern Rangelands Trust, as well as the Saint Louis Zoo and its partners, to develop a sustainable, self-sufficient conservation strategy for their community. Cooperative multi-community habitat restoration programs, coupled with community-led grazing plans, are proving to be successful within the Northern Rangelands Trust communities, re-establishing important wildlife-friendly areas and historical migratory corridors for several species.
Follow Northern Rangelands Trust on Facebook.
Emerging conservation programs for other species, such as the mountain nyala, are being given important ground-floor support by the Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa. The mountain nyala is a critically endangered species endemic to Ethiopia. Little is known of this species, and research and education projects supported by the Center and several partners through MELCA Ethiopia, Bale Beauty Nature Club and WildCODE, three emerging conservation organizations in Ethiopia, will help lay a foundation for a conservation plan to ensure a future for this incredible species, a true Ethiopian treasure.
The Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa is thus helping to raise awareness and promote a true international conservation alliance for the wildlife of the Horn of Africa - a region that is high on alarming conservation needs, but to date, short on significant conservation investment.