January 23, 2018

Great Grevy’s Rally January 27 & 28, 2018 

Four members of the Saint Louis Zoo’s staff are participating in this year’s Great Grevy’s Rally: Martha Fischer, Curator of Mammals/Ungulates and Elephants (her 24th trip to Kenya), Tim Thier, Zoological Manager of Ungulates (his fourth trip to Kenya), and keepers Lauren Harster and Joshua Sydney-Smith (both making their first trip to Kenya). The Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute is partnering with other organizations, including Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Northern Rangelands Trust and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to fund the second national census of the endangered Grevy's zebra. This year’s Rally also includes counting the threatened reticulated giraffe.   #GGR2018 #earnyourstripes
Click a photo below to see the slideshow.

Days 1 & 2: Visiting Lewa Wildlife Conservancy 

The Zoo team is visiting Lewa Wildlife Conservancy for two days before beginning their preparation and training for the Great Grevy’s (and Giraffe) Rally. The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy started in the 1980s as a black rhino sanctuary and is currently home to 62 black rhinos and 80 white rhinos. The Zoo began its partnership with the conservancy almost 20 years ago in 1998 and have since partnered on research and conservation projects related to the preservation of Grevy’s zebra, an endangered species.
For the last two days, the team has been honing their wildlife spotting skills and practicing  taking  photographs of the sides of Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe. During the Rally, side photos of every Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe observed will be taken and used for photo identification of individual animals. 
In the first 24 hours at the Conservancy, the Zoo team has seen nearly half of the 45 species of mammals found there, including the endangered Grevy’s zebra and black rhino.  They have also spotted numerous bird species, such as endangered East Africa crowned cranes and the critically endangered Ruppell’s vulture.

Grocery Shopping & Wildlife Spotting

Before this weekend's rally, staff members stopped at a local grocery store in Nanyuki. The staff needed to get enough food for roughly fifty people including scouts, drivers, rangers/security and chefs, as well as those participating in the rally.  Zoo staffers also caught a glimpse of a pride of 10 lions and 4 cubs, and of course, a wild Grevy's zebra. Grocery photos courtesy of JT Svoke from ZooMiami. 

Visiting BeadWORKS

While in Kenya for the Great Grevy’s Rally, our four staff members visited the headquarters of BeadWORKS,  a company that enables women within the Northern Rangelands Trust conservancies to use their traditional skills to earn an income. BeadWORKS products are sold throughout the world, including gift shops at the Saint Louis Zoo and many other zoos.  The Zoo’s WildCare Institute has been a partner with the Northern Rangelands Trust since its inception in 2004 and provides annual support to the Northern Rangelands Trust Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy, one of the first of the six original conservancies when Northern Rangelands Trust was started.  Pictured below are Martha Fischer, Saint Louis Zoo Curator of Mammals/Ungulates and Elephants; Rufo Roba Halakhe, Business Administrator for NRT Trading; and Lauren Harster, Saint Louis Zoo Antelope Keeper. You can read more about BeadWORKS Kenya here: BeadWORKS Kenya here.

Facebook Live

In honor of upcoming International Zebra Day (January 31), Zoological Manager of River’s Edge Katie Pilgram and Antelope Keeper Kim Downey talked zebras and wildlife conservation on Facebook Live. Katie and Kim participated in the 2016 Rally and shared their experiences in the Facebook Live.

And That’s a Wrap!

The Great Grevy’s Rally 2018 is complete! The zoo teams’ photographs will be an important addition to the hundreds of photos taken by over 700 people across five northern Kenya counties during the Rally.

The field reports coming in from Kenya are:  

  • Baio region:  The zoo teams in Lauren and Tim’s camp spotted and photographed 18 Grevy’s zebra over two days, but unfortunately saw no reticulated giraffe.
  • Goudas region:  The zoo teams in Syd and Martha’s camps covered over 250 km during the two-day rally and spotted 11 giraffes, but unfortunately no zebras.  
  • Laisamis region: Two zebras and no giraffes were seen by the zoo teams. 

Pictured below:

Syd and Martha with Joshua Labarakwe, Laisamis Regional Coordinator in front of a zebra watering hole constructed for Grevy's zebra and other wildlife.

During day 1 of the Great Grevy’s Rally Syd and Martha did not see any Grevy’s zebra, but did spot and shoot photos of 11 giraffes.

Grevy's Zebra Trust "Grass Guardians" visited camp and shared educational interpretations for their communities that teach them about the rotational grazing and the importance of wildlife in their ecosystem.