‘Wildbook’ site lets users upload pictures of endangered Grevy’s zebras to save dwindling species

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Conservationists hoping to save one of the world’s most endangered animals have a new high-tech tool in their arsenal: Social media.

Grevy’s zebras once roamed across five countries in Africa, but their numbers have dwindled to barely 3,000 due to habitat loss and hunting.

Now an online platform known as Wildbook is keeping tabs on these precious equines, by enabling volunteers take and upload photos that are then matched against zebras already in the site’s database. 

The zebra’s distinct stripes, which are as unique as fingerprints, allow them to be easily identified from among hundreds of thousands of submitted photos. 

Grevy¿s zebras once roamed across five countries in Africa. But their numbers have dwindled to barely 3,000, thanks to habitat loss and hunting. Wildbook, an online platform, uses AI to track individual zebras through hundreds of thousands of photos submitted by volunteers

Grevy’s zebras once roamed across five countries in Africa. But their numbers have dwindled to barely 3,000, thanks to habitat loss and hunting. Wildbook, an online platform, uses AI to track individual zebras through hundreds of thousands of photos submitted by volunteers 

Developed in 2003 to help track whale sharks, Wildbook uses algorithms and machine learning to identify and track individual animals.   

A profile is created for each and information about age and gender is added when it’s known.

So far volunteers, known as ‘citizen scientists,’ have helped map out some 2,800 Grevy’s zebras in Kenya, which is home to 95 percent of the species, according to the Standard

These amateur conservationists include wildlife enthusiasts, residents and even schoolchildren, Rosemary Warungu of the Mpala Conservation Centre in Laikipia, told the Kenya Standard

The zebra¿s distinct stripes, which are as unique as fingerprints, allow them to be easily identified by Wildbook. Each individual gets their own profile, with information on age and sex added whenever known

The zebra’s distinct stripes, which are as unique as fingerprints, allow them to be easily identified by Wildbook. Each individual gets their own profile, with information on age and sex added whenever known

Wildbook's algorithms replace tedious manual identification. So far volunteers, known as ¿citizen scientists,¿ have helped map out some 2,800 Grevy¿s zebras in Kenya

Wildbook’s algorithms replace tedious manual identification. So far volunteers, known as ‘citizen scientists,’ have helped map out some 2,800 Grevy’s zebras in Kenya

These amateur conservationists include wildlife enthusiasts, residents and even schoolchildren, Rosemary Warungu of the Mpala Conservation Centre in Laikipia, told the Kenya Standard.

A census called the Great Grevy’s Rally, has been held every two years since 2016. The most recent census was held in January.

Previously, photos were identified manually, a far more time-consuming process.

It is estimated that there are less than 2,500 Grévy’s zebras in the wild, and another 600 in captivity.

A Grevy's zebra foal stands with its mother in their enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. Three males and one female foals were born this summer at the White Oak Conservation in Florida. The newborns are part of what¿s known as an assurance population and will not be released into the wild

A Grevy’s zebra foal stands with its mother in their enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo. Three males and one female foals were born this summer at the White Oak Conservation in Florida. The newborns are part of what’s known as an assurance population and will not be released into the wild

This summer, a wildlife refuge in northeast Florida announced the birth of four new Grevy’s zebra foals.

Three males and one female were born at the White Oak Conservation in Yulee, according to Treehugger

Nearly 100 Grevy’s zebras have been born at White Oak since 1977, when the first came to the facility.

The newborns are part of what’s known as an assurance population and will not be released into the wild.

While Grevy’s zebras were known in ancient times and even appeared in Roman circuses, it wasn’t until 1882 that French zoologist Émile Oustalet identified them as a distinct species.

He named them after French president Jules Grevy, who was presented with one as a gift.

The largest zebra species, Grevy¿s zebra is taller and has larger ears than the plains zebra. Poachers once hunted it for its skin but now the main threat is habitat loss

The largest zebra species, Grevy’s zebra is taller and has larger ears than the plains zebra. Poachers once hunted it for its skin but now the main threat is habitat loss

Also known as the imperial zebra, it is the world’s largest wild equine.

The Grevy’s zebra is taller and has larger ears compared to the plains zebra, giving it an almost mule-like appearance.

Its decline was first attributed to poachers, who hunted it for its skin until hunting bans established in the 1970s. Now the main threat is habitat loss.

Cattle farmers fence off access to many watering holes and the invasive mesquite plant has been killing off grasses the zebra relies on for much of its diet.

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