Monday, December 5, 2011

New Measures to Protect the Hirola

The abundance of the hirola, a large, African antelope, has reached a dangerously low level. The entirety of the hirola population consisted of about 14,000 animals when surveyed in the 1970s, but today it is estimated that fewer than 400 remain, occupying small, fragmented habitats in Kenya and Somalia. The increasingly fragmented habitats, in addition to habitat destruction, predation, unregulated hunting, and limited resources due to drought have had a severe negative impact on the hirola. As the only surviving species in its genus, the hirola’s disappearance would mean the loss of an entire category of African mammals. Should the hirola go extinct, it will be the first mammal genus to completely die out in over 75 years.

Efforts to protect the hirola have been fairly weak, given its “critically endangered” ICUN status. Though a reserve was established in the 1970s to provide a refuge for the rare antelope, it has been largely neglected for decades, allowing the hirola population to shrink further still. All attempts to breed the animals in captivity have failed in various facilities around the world. After the captive breeding projects proved unsuccessful, small portions of the population were relocated to ensure their safety. There is currently a small but stable population of hirola living in a neighboring wildlife park.

The most recent efforts to save the hirola involve the Ishaqbini conservancy, which is composed of several Somalian clans dedicated to the preservation of the local wildlife. To combat the threat of predation due to rising numbers of African lions and African wild dogs, the Ishaqbini plan to implement a predator-proof fence to surround the hirola population. Paired with other conservation projects and redoubling efforts to prevent poaching, the new measures to protect the hirola will hopefully bring the species back from the brink of extinction.

Dahiye, Yakub, Mumin. “Reconnaissance survey for the hirola antelope in northern parts of

Garissa district, Kenya.” African Journal of Ecology 47, 452-453. 2009.

Dell’Amore, Christine. “Entire Mammal Genus on the Brink of Extinction.” National

Geographic. 2011.


Christina Young

1 comment:

Niree Dingizian said...

The mention of the fence makes me think of the attempt to use fences to regulate rabbits. However, it just ended up costing a lot of money and served no purpose, since the rabbits just dug under the fence. That being said, I am now always a little skeptical when such proposals are made.