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Rare & Endangered Species

In conservation terms, Laikipia’s most important mammal species is Grevy’s Zebra, which differs from the Plains Zebra in having narrower stripes and larger, more donkey-like ears. The species occurs only in northern Kenya and in parts of Ethiopia. Everywhere but in Laikipia its numbers have been decimated by illegal hunting and by competition with domestic livestock. Whereas in the 1970s there were an estimated 15,000 Grevy’s Zebras in all, today there are fewer than 3,000 – the majority in Laikipia. In parts of Laikipia where Grevy’s and Plains Zebra ranges overlap, there is a problem of hybridisation between the two, as solitary Grevy’s stallions mate with Plains Zebra mares.

Jackson’s Hartebeest – an intermediate form between the Coke’s Hartebeest of southern Kenya and the Lelwel of central Africa (NW Kenya included) – is unique to Laikipia. While not globally threatened, the Laikipia form has declined by more than 80 % in the past 15 years, despite increases over the same period in other hartebeest taxa. There is much debate over the causes of this steep decline, but hartebeest seem especially vulnerable to lion predation and may be victims of Laikipia’s recent increases in lion numbers.

The Reticulated Giraffe, found only in northern Kenya and parts of Somalia and Ethiopia, is one of the most endangered giraffe subspecies. Considered by some to be a full species, its numbers are thought to have declined in the past 20 years from around 27,000 to no more than 3,000. Two-thirds of these animals are in Laikipia.

Another conservation success story concerns the African Wild Dog, a globally threatened species that wanders over vast areas, often coming into conflict with Man. In the 1990s, the species was exterminated from Laikipia, where packs had been killing flocks of sheep. A few packs survived in Samburu, however, and in the 1990s some of these animals wandered south. Numbers built up quickly, and Laikipia now supports more than 150 individuals in about 11 packs.

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