Conservationists from WCS’s Tanzania Program shared this photo of a zebra stallion amidst wild flowers and orchids in Kitulo National Park. This zebra is one of 22 individuals translocated into Kitulo last October by WCS, working in conjunction with Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) and Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute TAWIRI. Recently, some of the WCS Tanzania team visited Kitulo and spent a few days with national park staff searching for the zebras to see how they are getting on. Said Tim Davenport, WCS Tanzania Country Director: “We are delighted to say that we located all the animals and they are all fine. They have split, as expected, into 5 herds and we noticed with excitement that one of the mares seems to be pregnant.”
First envisioned and designed by WCS Tanzania Country Director Tim Davenport in the 2000s, and the result of two years background work led by WCS’s Noah Mpunga and Sophy Machaga – including feasibility and ecological studies, sensitization programs, and education in the villages around the park - these zebra are a very significant step in the restoration of Kitulo's natural ecology.
Kitulo contains the best remaining example of one of eastern Africa's rarest biomes: montane grassland – a habitat that needs to be grazed to maintain the natural balance of plants. Kitulo is home to a unique array of flowering plants, most notably rare terrestrial orchids. So, while the reintroduction of these charismatic animals should be good for tourism and hence the local economy, they will also be hugely beneficial to the ecology of this unique and beautiful area.
Four of the animals have been equipped with satellite collars so their movements can be tracked and their wellbeing monitored. Carried out in collaboration with TANAPA and TAWIRI, the relocation was funded by WCS with support from USAID and Ashley Scott and the Dula Foundation.
WCS has been involved with Kitulo since before it became a park. WCS researchers carried out orchid trade assessments that led to the park’s eventual creation, and subsequent biodiversity surveys led to the discovery of a new primate species, the kipunji, in the Livingstone Forest. In addition, WCS has initiated invasive species removal in the park along with education programs, and has produced the first guidebook to the plateau's flowering plants.