Conservation in Action
The Great Grevy’s Rally 2018
Sacramento Zoo education specialist Chris Llewellyn joined the second national census of the endangered Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe in Africa, called the Great Grevy’s Rally. The census teams are made up of citizen scientists, conservationists, national and county governments, scientists, local conservancies, and NGO’s. Representation from U.S. zoos includes the Sacramento Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Saint Louis Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Zoo Miami, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Lion Country Safari. Chris is taking us with her on this conservation journey and will share her experiences with us along the way.
Chris has worked in the Interpretive Center at the Sacramento Zoo for seven years where she cares for the animal ambassadors, does stage show, brings the ZooMobile to schools and more. Before the Sacramento Zoo she worked at Marine World Africa USA/Six Flags Discovery Kingdom for 16 years. Chris is an active volunteer at other animal conservation organizations including Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund and the Consumnes River Preserve.
In the late 1970’s there were an estimated 15,000 Grevy’s zebra in the wild. Today fewer than 2,500 remain. The Grevy’s zebra has suffered one of the most drastic population declines of any African mammal, due to climate change, habitat loss and competition with livestock. The Great Grevy’s Rally is a census of the population, which will aid Grevy’s Zebra Trust and their conservation partners to safeguard the future of the Grevy’s zebra.
Day 0 – Connections to the Zoo
The Sacramento Zoo is home to female Grevy’s zebra. The zoo is a longstanding supporter of the Grevy’s Zebra Trust and is proud to partner with them to conserve zebras in the wild through the Great Grevy’s Rally.
Day 1 – January 23, 2018
After a long flight Chris arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. Chris used the downtime on her first day to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Orphans’ Project where they rescue and rehabilitate orphaned elephants and rhinos.
Chris also visited a Kazuri bead making workshop. Situated on what was once a part of Karen von Blixen’s coffee plantation there is now a small workshop where ceramic jewelry and beads are made by Kenyan women. Each bead is shaped by hand, by one of the 350 local women employed by Kazuri. The beads are then polished and kiln fired, painted and fired again before being strung into a necklace. The jewelry is then sold around the world. Creating the jewelry provides desperately needed income to families in a region where unemployment ranges from 65% – 90%.
Over the next few days Chris will hone her wildlife spotting skills and practice 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.
Day 2 – January 24, 2018
After a four-hour drive to the eco camp in Nanyuki, Chris got to hear about the rally from the Executive Director of Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Belinda Low! Chris also met up with the other U.S. zoo staff that represent the San Diego Zoo, Saint Louis Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Zoo Miami, Disney’s Animal Science and Environment, and Lion Country Safari.
Day 3 – January 25, 2018
Training day! After an early breakfast training for the Great Grevy’s Rally began promptly at 9:30 am. Training was taught by Belinda Low and David Kimiti, Head of Research from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Participants received the cameras that will be used to track and identify the individual zebras. They also learned about the data collection process and how their participation will be used to help African wildlife.
Day 4 – January 26, 2018
Time to pack and set off for camp. On the final day before the rally Chris took her last hot shower before helping to packing up the Land Cruisers with food, camping equipment, and luggage. After everyone was ready to go the convoy of vehicles set off for a four-hour drive to Laisamis.
Along the way they were lucky enough to pass by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, famous for its rhino and Grevy’s zebra populations. Next was Isiolo, a town that is famous for its ethnic and religious diversity, with a mix of Turkana, Samburu, Rendille, Meru, Borana and Somali ethnic groups. A stop in Archer’s Post connected Chris and her team with Rangeland Manager, Peter Lalampaa, Joshua Labarakwe, Laisamis Regional Coordinator and Camp Manager, Joel Loongo’nyo. Further along they drove through Serolevi, a town near Sera conservancy that hosts the first black rhino population to be introduced back into community-owned land in Kenya.