Facts
  • Apparently now restricted to the south-eastern coast of Kenya, just south of the border with Somalia.
  • The graceful hirola is Africa's most threatened antelope.
  • A white line, or chevron, passes from one eye to the other across the forehead, giving the hirola the appearance of wearing spectacles.
  • The name hirola derives from the Somali pastoral community, which has given refuge to this species and consider it to have spiritual significance which is linked to cattle keeping. They consider its presence a good sign and they fear that if it goes they will lose all their cattle as well.
  • The population has declined drastically from 14,000 in 1973 to about 300 in 1995. Numbers appear to have recovered slightly since then, and the current population is thought to be relatively stable.
Threats
  • Disease – much of the species' decline appears to have occurred between 1983 and 1985. This coincides with a major rinderpest epidemic affecting domestic livestock in the region, and it is possible that there may have been transmission of the disease to the hirola population.
  • Competition for grazing and water with domestic livestock.
  • Habitat loss due to bush encroachment.
  • Severe drought.
  • The species has been legally protected from hunting in Kenya since 1971 and in Somalia since 1977. However, enforcement is poor and poaching by administration police, army, militia and refugees remains a key threat.
Conservation Required
  • Monitor and protect the small but relatively safe population in Tsavo East National Park.
  • Improve enforcement of anti-poaching laws and access to food and water resources.
  • Establish effective monitoring programmes for wild populations of the species.
  • Improve the habitat and resource conditions for the species within its natural range.
  • Create viable community-run protected conservancies or sanctuaries by providing local people with the resources and support they need to manage and protect the hirola.
  • Establish community livelihood enhancement activities such as ecotourism, which will generate the funding local people need to conserve this unique species.


Proposed Actions

EDGE aims to work with local researchers and an EDGE Fellow to carry out detailed research into the ecology of a protected population of hirola antelope. The findings will be used to guide future management strategies for this species in the wild.

The hirola is Africa’s most threatened antelope. It is the sole survivor of a once abundant group of antelopes, and is often referred to as a living relic. Once common throughout East Africa, the species has suffered a devastating decline in the last 30 years, with numbers plummeting from around 14,000 in the 1970s to an estimated 600 today. The surviving hirola are threatened by drought, poaching and habitat loss. Intensive conservation efforts are needed if this species is to survive.

The EDGE of Existence programme aims to provide support for researchers studying a small protected population of hirola in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. This population was established in the National Park during the 1960s, and is the only insurance the hirola has against extinction, if a disaster should occur in its natural habitat. The National Park provides an ideal opportunity for researchers to study the behaviour and ecology of the species and understand more about what factors could be responsible for its decline in the wild.

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Associated Blog Posts
6th Jun 14
It‘s the world’s rarest antelope, a unique, Critically Endangered species which is has received little media or conservation attention.  So…who’s he...  Read

8th Aug 13
  EDGE fellow Abdullahi Hussein Ali has recently been recognised by the American Society of Mammalogists for his work on the in Kenya. He has rec...  Read

28th Jan 13
The hard work of EDGE Fellow Ali and the plight of the hirola has this week been recognised by the international press as news of the first ever attempt to G...  Read

21st Sep 12
Following on from Ali's blog last week...  In February 2012, I made a request to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to fit GPS collars on 10 adult (>3 year...  Read

14th Sep 12
It’s official! The first hirola sanctuary in the world is up and running in Ijara, marking a significant step towards the recovery of arguably the world’...  Read

23rd Feb 12
My name is Abdullahi Hussein Ali and I have just started as an EDGE Fellow working on the globally endangered hirola antelope (Beatragus hunteri). This u...  Read

19th May 10
It has been long since updates are sent for the blog readers. All is well for hirola monitoring. A population is thought to increase if new born are added to...  Read

16th Feb 10
Hirola monitoring is still on as usual despite challenges here and there. However, this will not make us not to achieve what we want at the long run. Struggl...  Read

2nd Oct 09
Here is the latest blog from Kimitei, our EDGE Fellow working on the critically endangered hirola antelope in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. In both wil...  Read

31st Mar 09
Here is the latest update from EDGE Fellow Kimitei, who is monitoring the translocated hirola antelope population in Tsavo National Park, southern Kenya. ...  Read

27th Feb 09
Here EDGE Fellow Kimitei tells us more about some potential threats to the critically endangered hirola antelope, his focus species: Tsavo East National P...  Read

10th Dec 08
Kimitei, our EDGE Fellow monitoring the Critically Endangered hirola population in Tsavo National Park, Kenya, has sent us this update: Rains are now droppi...  Read

14th Nov 08
Kimitei, our Kenyan EDGE Fellow studying Africa's most endangered antelope - the hirola, has sent us the following update on his recent findings: Click h...  Read

21st Oct 08
Hi friends! It is a pleasure to have this chance to write one or two for you. I am Kimitei Kimeli Kenneth a young Scientist in Kenya. I did a Wildlife Man...  Read

6th Oct 08
Our newest EDGE Fellow, Kimitei, has recently started monitoring a translocated hirola population in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. His work will gather es...  Read