Thousands of zebras once roamed the plains of Tanzania, but 50 years ago, the animals were hunted to extinction. But now, after a significant rewilding effort, Tanzania’s Southern Highlands region is home to the distinct-looking black and white striped zebra!
Zebras found themselves edged out of Tanzania entirely, primarily due to farmlands encroaching on their territory, but the animals were also hunted for their skins.
A bold effort to rewild Kitulo National Park included the planting of more than 4 million trees in preparation for the return of wildlife that the nation hasn’t seen in decades. 24 zebras were released into the park last October. A total of 16 females and 6 males were released. Four of them have satellite collars to track their movements.
This project has been a long time coming. It was first conceived by Dr. Tim Davenport, the Director of WCS Tanzania Program.
“It was thrilling to see the zebras moving across the plateau as they had for untold centuries,” said Dr. Davenport after their release. “This collaboration proves that we can restore wildlife in once degraded landscapes—provided there is political will and good science behind these efforts.”
Saving zebras was not the only objective of the rewilding of the national park. The trees they planted and grasslands they restored are a host to numerous animals, like the kipunji, a species of monkey discovered in the early 2000s.
“Some people were skeptical,” said Tanzania National Parks lead veterinarian Dr. Emmanuel Macha, “but we achieved it. It is great to see zebra once again enjoying this beautiful landscape. Perhaps we can re-introduce impala, waterbuck or eland next.”