January 23, 2020

Seven Saint Louis Zoo staff members left on January 18 for the 2020 Great Grevy’s Rally in Kenya, Africa, a national census of Grevy’s zebra taking place January 25-26.  

Check out our blog post from 2018

This year’s participants included; Martha Fischer (General Curator, Saint Louis Zoo North Campus), Tim Thier (Curator of Mammals - Ungulates and River’s Edge), Jamie Lombardo (Antelope Keeper), Cora Munroe (Antelope Keeper), Nicole Brown (River’s Edge Keeper), John Clark (Zoological Manager, Children’s Zoo) and Maddison Syberg (Children’s Zoo Keeper). They will be a part of a multi-zoo collaborative effort covering an expansive area of Northern Kenya, called Laisamis, which is home to the northernmost population of Grevy’s zebra in Kenya.  Two zoo teams, consisting of 15 team members from seven different Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) zoos, will be based in two camps in Laisamis and will be surveying this huge zone during the Rally.  Martha will be participating at Mpala Research Center and will take part in the Rally with Dr. Dan Rubenstein (Princeton University) and Belinda Mackey (Grevy’s Zebra Trust Executive Director). After the two-day Rally, the group will convene again at the Grevy’s Zebra Trust camp for a few days.

The Rally happens every two years and is organized by the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, a long-time conservation partner of WildCare Institute

In advance of the Rally, they will spend a few days visiting some of the key programs supported by the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa.  The Center plays a key role in sustaining critically endangered wild species, like the Grevy’s zebra, and their habitats.

Before they left, we asked some of our staff to share their feelings about their upcoming trip to Kenya. We will check back with them after their trip to get some insight on the Rally and if their expectations were met or surpassed!

I am so excited to be part of the Rally in Kenya. I traveled to Tanzania my senior year of college and thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I could never have imagined getting to return to Africa five years later. This trip feels like the perfect culmination of so many pieces falling into place. My first ever “job” at the Saint Louis Zoo was as an animal behavior research intern. During that summer I helped with behavioral research on several ungulate species, including zebras. The following summer, right after my trip to Tanzania, I was an Antelope department intern. I continued to fall in love with all the ungulate species, including zebras. After five years as a Children’s Zookeeper, I accepted my dream job back in the Antelope department just three months ago. And now I get to travel to Kenya and participate in this incredible conservation program, from observing zebras at the Zoo to observing zebras in Africa. I am looking forward to seeing so many animals in their natural habitat and I am certain this opportunity will help me to be a better keeper. ­– Cora Munroe, Antelope Keeper

I am both excited and nervous for this trip. Being in Kenya and seeing some of the animals we have at the Zoo in the wild is going to be so amazing! Lots of people have told me this trip will be life-changing. I am excited to be part of this team and to help directly with conservation during the Great Grevy’s Rally. I’ve worked with zebras in the past as a keeper in the Antelope department and now  as a keeper at the Children’s Zoo working with other African animals, I don’t know which animals I’m more excited to see! Pancake tortoises and leopard tortoises, meerkats, warthogs, giraffes or zebras! I’m most nervous about camping in the wild bush of Africa. No running water, no bathrooms and we have to bring our own tents! I practiced all my survival skills (pitching a tent and packing it up again) before we left and we will all work as a team to help each other out. – Maddison Syberg, Emerson Children’s Zoo Keeper

I am very excited for the opportunity to see the species I  care for every day at the Zoo in their natural habitat, especially the zebras! I hope to take what I see in Kenya and bring it back to the Zoo to provide the best care for our animals. I am excited to have hands-on experience with conservation and the opportunity to learn more about our Wild Care Institute and all the programs that are involved with it.  – Jamie Lombardo, Antelope Keeper

Going into this trip, I am, of course, excited to see so many different species we care for at the Zoo in their wild habitat. But mostly I am looking forward to getting some hands-on conservation experience that I know will give some impactful insight into my career as a keeper and all the amazing work the Saint Louis Zoo is doing through our WildCare Institute. – Nicole Brown, River's Edge Keeper

Read Part II