Princeton Zebra Project

This project primarily focuses on continual research on the endangered Grevy’s zebra ecology. Before the Mpala Research Centre came into existence, Dr. Daniel Rubenstein studied both plains and Grevy’s zebras in Samburu and plains zebras in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater. Those projects revealed much about their social and behavioural intricacies. With the creation of Mpala, long-term data of known individuals of both species enabled the project to construct genetic pedigrees and social networks that are mined to explore the ways in which kinship and social relationships are affected by environmental conditions and shape decision-making.

Since its inception, over 65 papers from the project have been published on zebras. Some have been on zebra themselves and their social lives, but others have used insights from this knowledge to inform management and conservation strategy. Initial work on zebra-livestock mutualisms has blossomed into exploring how further rangeland benefits can accrue by tinkering with livestock rearing practices.

Similarly, an understanding of movements and needs is required to develop strategies for conserving the endangered Grevy’s zebras. This project tracks Grevy’s zebra numbers, their movement patterns, and health, while promoting a large outreach and education component and using research-based solutions to minimise human-wildlife conflict. Over the next 25 years the project will expand to look more closely at diets, disease and interactions with other grazers, especially livestock.

University: Princeton University, New Jersey, USA

Principle Investigator: Dr. Daniel Rubenstein

Project Manager: Rosemary Warungu

Project Start: 1994