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Bringing the zoos to the zebras

Princeton biologist reports at AAAS on partnership with St. Louis Zoo to empower Kenyan communities in endangered Grevy's zebra conservation

The Grevy's zebra is the most endangered member of the horse family in the world, with an estimated 2000 left in the wild. More than 70 percent of these live in the Samburu region of northern Kenya, most of them on unprotected community lands. Now an innovative partnership between Princeton University and Saint Louis Zoo's WildCare Institute is bringing effective conservation of Grevy's zebras within reach for Samburu pastoral cooperatives.

Dr. Daniel Rubenstein of Princeton University reported on this pioneering effort at the annual meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) in St. Louis on February 17, 2006. Rubenstein is chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the Program in African Studies at Princeton University, as well as a board member and principal investigator for Earthwatch Institute. In a talk titled "Engaging and Empowering Local Communities in Conservation," Rubenstein described how data gathered by local communities are leading to important changes in attitudes toward Grevy's zebra conservation.

"Because members of the community collect the data, they 'own' the findings," said Rubenstein. In collaboration with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Rangeland Trust, WildCare Institute employed local scouts from pastoral communities in northern Kenya to gather data on the activities of zebras relative to livestock. Workshops with community members revealed that these data are providing insights into the effective conservation of Grevy's zebras and leading to important changes in community attitudes.

"After the first year we showed them that only about 35 percent of their sightings of Grevy's zebras were in the presence of livestock, and that for the class of non-lactating females the percentage was even lower," said Rube
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Contact: Blue Magruder
bmagruder@earthwatch.org
978-450-1209
Earthwatch Institute
17-Feb-2006


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