Grevy’s zebra is listed as Endangered A1a, 2c by the IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group. Grevy’s zebra is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) which offers them the highest protection against illegal trading. They are legally protected in Ethiopia and since 1977 have been protected by a hunting ban in Kenya.
Grevy's zebra are confined to the Horn of Africa, specifically Ethiopia and Kenya. The species has undergone one of the most substantial reductions of range of any African mammal. Historically, they were found more widely across the Horn of Africa including Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia. There was also a reported sighting in southern Sudan but this needs verification.
The historic and present distribution of Grevy's zebra in the Horn of Africa
(data assimilated from Kingdon, 1979, 1997; Yalden et al., 1986)
Grevy’s zebra are in crisis and numbers have declined rapidly. Towards the end of the 1970s, the global population of Grevy's zebra was estimated to be approximately 15,000 animals; in 2008 an updated survey estimated approximately 2,800 animals representing more than an 80% decline in global numbers over the past four decades.
The 1977 estimate for Grevy’s zebra was 13,718 (Dirschl and Wetmore, 1978); in 1988, the estimate was 4,278 (Grunblatt et al., 1989); in 2000, the estimate was 2,571 animals (Nelson, 2003; Nelson and Williams, 2003); “Guess estimate” numbers of Grevy’s zebra in Kenya taken from the 2004 Grevy’s zebra workshop (Williams and Low, 2004) ranged between 1,600 and 2,000 animals. In the 2007 National Grevy’s Zebra Conservation Strategy Workshop (Mwasi and Mwangi, 2007) these figures were updated by stakeholders with the estimated population ranging between 1,838 and 2,319 animals. A systematic aerial census in 2008 yielded 2,407 individuals of Grevy’s zebras in Laikipia-Samburu-Isiolo-Marsabit complex. A follow-up aerial survey of Grevy’s zebra across the same area was undertaken in the year 2012, resulting in an estimated population of 2,647 Grevy’s zebra in the core range of the species.
Their far northern range is excluded from these aerial surveys due to a vast area with low densities making such an exercise prohibitively expensive. However, a ground survey was undertaken in February 2010 with results suggesting a severe decline in the species since the last comprehensive survey of the same area in the year 2000. Intermittent sightings of Grevy’s zebra in the area are reported by pilots flying over the region, with occasional sightings of up to 20 animals, which are likely part of the southern Ethiopian population.
Estimates for Grevy’s zebra populations in Ethiopia suggest a minimum of an 85% decline throughout the country with an estimated 1,900 animals in 1980 (Klingel, 1980); 577 animals in 1995 (Thouless, 1995); 110 animals in 2003 (Williams et al., 2003) to 281 animals in 2012 (Fanuel Kabede, pers. comm. 2012).