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In search of the African Grevy
02:17 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The Grevy's zebra is endangered, and researchers in Kenya want to help it

Teams with cameras took photos of the zebras, each of which has unique stripes

With a computer program, scientists can help track individuals, which can aid conservation programs

Laikipia, Kenya CNN  — 

In the rolling green hills of Kenya’s Rift Valley, the search is on for one of the rarest of all zebras, the elusive Grevy’s zebra.

It’s one of Kenya’s most critically endangered species, and scientists want to know just how many remain.

They’re doing it by looking at their stripes.

Every zebra’s stripes are unique, it turns out: a natural bar code. Now with new technology, scientists can read them like a bar code as well.

Crowdsourcing conservation

At the beginning of the month, around 120 teams of scientists, amateur scientists, schoolchildren and even the U.S. ambassador to Kenya were given GPS-enabled cameras, and they fanned out across 25 square kilometers of rangeland to photograph every Grevy’s zebra they saw for two days.

Organizers called it the Great Grevy’s Rally, and the zebra enthusiasts took more than 100,000 photographs.

Zebra enthusiasts took more than 100,000 photographs during the Great Grevy's Rally.

“It’s amazing,” Princeton professor Daniel Rubenstein said, snapping pictures. “Historic. Magic.”

Rubenstein, one of the chief researchers organizing the rally, is taking the photos back to the United States to be analyzed.

Researchers feed the photos into a “hotspotter” computer program, which is able to identify an