Currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, Grevy’s zebras have suffered a drastic decline of their populations attributed to habitat loss and degradation, resource competition, poaching and predation.
However, evidence of how these different factors actually impact on individual and population health remains unclear.
Assessing the extrinsic (habitat quality and pathogen load) and intrinsic (population structure, reproduction and physiology) factors impacting the population across the Grevy’s zebra’s range is essential to understand how their performance varies.
This project, developed in collaboration with Professor Susanne Shultz at the University of Manchester, focuses on the Kenyan population of Grevy’s zebras and will carry out a cross population assessment of the reproductive health of the species across a mix of landscapes within private wildlife conservancies and community rangelands across the Laikipia and Samburu counties.
Applying the framework previously developed on the Cape Mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra), a congener species facing similar challenges and variations in population performance, this research will enable us to assess individual and population level variation in health and reproduction by carrying both ecological and physiological investigations.
This project will also be working towards building new tools within the conservation physiology toolbox by developing and validating biomarkers of oxidative stress in the species. In addition of measuring the animals’ responses to a stressor, this innovative technique will allow us to examine the physiological trade-offs to that response.