Analytics to help save Zebras

Posted by admin updated on 01 Aug, 2011

In an intriguing use of analytics, Marwell Wildlife, an international conservation charity and zoo in the UK, has added predictive analytics software as the latest tool in its 15-year effort to protect the Grévy’s zebra, an endangered species.

Marwell Wildlife is using predictive analytics to analyze field data from aerial surveys, camera traps and radio collars to understand the threats to the zebras as well as what could be done to increase their numbers and bring them back from the brink of extinction. They also analyzed data from a survey of the nomadic herdsmen in northern Kenya, home to most of the remaining Grevy’s zebras. In an attempt to gain insight into the effect of humans on zebras, they realized that the zebras needs weren’t compatible with the needs of the herdsmen.

Predictive analytics also enabled the organization to get a better understanding as to the reasons behind people’s attitudes and behaviors, so it could figure out where to focus its efforts to save the zebras. The analysis of its survey gave Marwell Wildlife a piece of valuable information that might aid in the effort to save the Grevy’s zebra—people hunted them for their fat, which they claim has medicinal value, rather than for food. By analyzing the data, the organization also learned that the people would use commercial medicine if it were available, which would help save them as well as the zebras.

Marwell Wildlife is also planning to use analytics in its fundraising activities – ranging from bringing in more donors to effectively analyzing its donor base to determine who gives to Marwell, when they give and why.

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Grévy’s zebra, also known as the Imperial zebra, is the largest wild equid and one of 3 species of zebra, the other two being the plains and the mountain zebras. It is found in Kenya and Ethiopia. Compared with other zebras, it is tall, has large ears, and its stripes are narrower. The Grévy’s zebra lives in semi-arid grasslands where it feeds on grasses, legumes, and browse; it can survive up to 5 days without water. It differs from the other zebra species in that it does not live in harems and has few long-lasting social bonds. Male territoriality and mother–foal relationships form the basis of the social system of the Grévy’s zebra. This zebra is considered to be endangered (population has declined from 15,000 to 3,000 since the 1970s).