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World's rarest antelope GPS collared for first time in Kenya

28/01/2013 16:36:22

There are an estimated 400-500 hirola living today, but these animals continue to be severely threatened by some combination of drought, predation, poaching, and habitat loss.

Hirola can now be monitored in an attempt to save this critically endangered species.

January 2013. A first ever attempt to GPS collar wild hirola in their native range has been hailed a success by conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Boni Forest and Tana River
A total of nine animals were identified by field-workers in Kenya who spent eighteen months monitoring their habitat. Seven herds of hirola were identified between Boni Forest and the Tana River in north-eastern Kenya. Adult hirola were carefully captured and GPS collars fitted before they were left to roam free once again.

90% decline in population
Cath Lawson, ZSL's EDGE Programme coordinator says: "Hirola is an EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) species - one of the most unique and threatened animals on the planet. Over the past thirty years numbers have plummeted by almost 90 percent, and they continue to decline.

"As the sole representative of its group, the loss of the hirola would be the first extinction of a mammalian genus on mainland Africa in more than 100 years," Cath added.

Each herd collared

GPS collars were fitted to at least one individual per herd, allowing conservationists to record vital information on population growth, group movements and behaviours. Conservationists in the field work closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service and local communities to locate hirola herds by distinguishing the footprints and faeces of hirola from those of other ungulates found in the same area.

4-500 alive today
There are an estimated 400-500 hirola living today, but these animals continue to be severely threatened by some combination of drought, predation, poaching, and habitat loss.

ZSL's EDGE Fellow and University of Wyoming doctoral student Abdullahi Hussein Ali says: "GPS radio-collars record one location every three hours throughout the year, and provide us with vital information on movement patterns which we wouldn't otherwise get.

"Because of the elusive nature of the hirola, identifying different herds for collaring was not an easy task. This particular habitat had also recently been hit by drought, so it made our job harder as it caused the hirola to disperse further in search of greener pastures," Ali added.

The GPS collars will drop off remotely in June 2014. Results from this study will provide much-needed information on the basic ecology and natural history of the hirola. This will form the basis of developing conservation efforts and monitoring of this rare and beautiful antelope in north-eastern Kenya.


Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Great news!

Great news to hear about a truly unique evolutionary gem. Keep up the excellent work guys!

@ John Newby - agreed, the addax is rare, but there are at least over 1500 of them in captivity across the globe, possibly more as the number in private collections in the US is difficult to accurately gauge. Whereas, unless more have been taken from the wild, there were only two hirola in captivity that I knew of... making them the rarer animal in total population. But yes, both in need of much conservation!

Posted by: Dave | 01 Feb 2013 14:21:56

World's rarest antelope

At the risk of appearing petty and pedantic, neither of which I am of course, and with absolutely no intention of detracting from the excellent and much needed work on hirola, I would argue the addax to be the world's rarest the wild at least. There are less than 300.

Posted by: John Newby | 01 Feb 2013 14:01:31

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