Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mt. Kenya White Zebra's

In 1899, early British explorers recorded ghost-like pure white zebras living on the Leroghi Plateau in the north of Kenya. There were four of these stunning white equines living among thousands of the black and white common or Burchell's zebras on the plateau. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles to the south, settlers 'discovered' a couple more of these outstanding animals on the slopes of Mount Kenya.
The British government was quick to declare these rare animals "Royal Game" which gave them the protection of the British Crown.

The Kenya Colony Game Department with their colorful mounted patrols insured the safety of these very rare animals not ever seen before.
All the same, no more than 4 were ever reported to have been sighted at any one time on the plateau, and only two on Mount Kenya.
Over the years, zoologists from all over the world came to Kenya to study these unusual animals. They were claimed to be "Albinistic Sports". Their eyes were not typically pink as would have been expected in true albinos, but amber gold. But their muzzle and belly skin was pink and their manes white.
When Kenya became an independent country under President Jomo Kenyatta, he took pride to declare the white zebras to be Presidential Game and with that the divisional Game Warden Maralal, Dennis Zaphiro was entrusted to safe guard their survival.

In the ensuing years Don Hunt and his capture unit were commissioned by the President to translocate some of the game from the overgrazed northern areas of Kenya to other regions in Nigeria on the other side of the continent where game had already become sparse. During these capture and translocation operations the team often had chance to observe and admire the protected white zebra.
Then, without warning the terrible poaching of Kenya's wildlife began. The Leroghi plateau especially was overrun by poachers from a neighboring country. By the thousands Kenya's wild animals were being slaughtered by bands of armed and dangerous poachers. The battle began with Game Warden Dennis Zaphiro and his brave rangers in the forefront risking their lives fighting superior armed hordes of poachers.
It soon became evident, that the poachers were winning the battle.
Concern for the survival of the white Zebra became urgent. Dennis reported that miraculously the small herd remained at 4 animals but he could not be sure how much longer they would be safe. He dispatched an urgent signal to the President for permission to have the animals moved to safety.

On hearing the news President Kenyatta moved swiftly to detail the Hunt capture unit to save the last 4 white zebra. It was high time. The Mount Kenya white zebra had already disappeared. The heavily armed Hunt capture team consisted of William Holden, Julian McKeand, Don and Iris Hunt and 20 trained animal handlers.
By the time the team reached the area, they found 2 of the 4 white zebra already slaughtered by the poachers. Now only two of Kenya's rare white zebra remained. They were hastily lassoed and taken to camp where bomas had been prepared to temporarily house them.
A report was made to President Kenyatta that the remaining two had been saved. One was a very young little stallion, the other an older female. The animals were kept under armed guard at the remote Hunt safari camp for several weeks, awaiting word from the President as to their future.

On the advice on his senior Game Wardens, President Kenyatta then gave the animals under license to The Mount Kenya Game Ranch with the request that they be cared for, bred if possible, in the hopes that one day some of their offspring could be returned to the wild if the poaching problem could be solved.
Dr. Warren Thomas of the Los Angeles Zoo assisted The Mount Kenya Game Ranch in setting up a breeding program for Kenya's last two white zebra using the herds of black and white zebra that had come to the Game Ranch from the same area as the whites.
In the year 2004, some 33 years after the white zebra rescue operation, our ongoing efforts to save the white Zebra have resulted in one of the most successful breeding programs in the history of African wildlife conservation.
The guesstimate of the total numbers of the white Zebra in the wild never exceeded 8 animals since they were first recorded and protected.

In 2004, 81 of these rare and valuable animals now existed at the Mount Kenya Game Ranch.
A program is now underway to return these beautiful animals to the wild.
Small groups now totaling 50 of these rare animals have to date been successfully released on the foothills of Mount Kenya. More will follow. A keen eye is kept on their welfare in the Mount Kenya National Park. Whilst the stock animals often return to the outskirts of the Ranch (now the Conservancy) that they were born on, it is believed that their offspring will prove more adventurous and eventually lead the herd into the vast mountain wilderness areas. Already we have recorded two births since their release earlier this year.

 The Circus "NO SPIN ZONE": White Zebra--Melanistic Zebra

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wade: This is amazing about the white zebras. By the way I'm pretty sure that Hearst had the world's first drive through zoo in California, before WWII. He started his menagerie with a herd of white fallow deer. Sincerely Paul