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August 2010: Grevy's zebra in Kenya, Africa

From the Photographer

Kenneth K. Coe  

The Grevy's zebra is surely a most impressive animal. Larger than the more common plains zebra, it seems to carry its elegant, narrow stripes with pride. Its facial features (especially those large ears) and behavior are actually more similar to those of the donkey. In fact, it communicates like the donkey — with resolute brays.

The braying of Grevy's zebras was once widely heard across eastern Africa. Due mostly to habitat loss, they are heard no more in the countries of Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti.

Except for a few declining groups in Ethiopia, Grevy's zebras are now basically restricted to a population of about 2,000 individuals in northern Kenya.

The Nature Conservancy's local partners in Kenya — Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Northern Rangelands Trust — are involved in the conservation of the Grevy's zebra. There are some 300-500 Grevy's zebras on Lewa lands at any given time, representing the most significant gathering of this endangered animal anywhere.

Conservation is, of course, not simple. The work of the Conservancy and their partners comprises not only of direct wildlife protection, but also encompasses giving the sense of ownership stake in conservation to the people in the local communities living amongst the wildlife. For more information on the Conservancy's work in Africa, visit nature.org/africa.

I photographed this stallion near the central fever tree swamp area at Lewa in August, 2007. Amidst the height of the dry season, Lewa was blessed with a few rain showers, and many Grevy's zebras were concentrated near the swamp relishing the precious green grass.

Because of the dense concentration of the zebras close to the vehicle, a "sea" of black and white stripes seemed to float through my viewfinder. Magically, the stallion positioned himself in one corner of the viewfinder next to a female and posed. Because the stripes of both animals blend together, one almost has to do a double take to figure out what is going on.

It was a clear case of the animal doing the work for the photographer.

Kenneth K. Coe is a member of The Nature Conservancy'’s Africa Council — an advisory group to the Conservancy's Africa Program. He has been traveling to various parts of Africa since 1989.


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