The hirola is a very special antelope and is often referred to as a “living fossil”. Diverging from its closest relatives about five and a half million years ago, it is the sole survivor of a formerly diverse group and is now Critically Endangered.
Threats to the hirola include disease, competition with domestic livestock for grazing and water, habitat loss and severe drought. The hirola was once a common sight throughout East Africa, but now you are hard-pressed to find any survivors as their numbers have dwindled from around 14,000 in the 1970s to an estimated 600 found only in Kenya near the Somalian border. It has been illegal to hunt hirola in Kenya since 1971 but poaching still occurs and, without effective conservation action, the future for this beautiful beast looks bleak.
Fortunately, plans are afoot to save the hirola before it is too late. The Hirola Management Committee was established in 1994 to plan conservation measures for this species, including: the creation of protected areas; the mitigation of risk of exposure to diseased livestock; population monitoring; and the promotion of eco-tourism for the hirola to generate much-needed income to guarantee its survival. EDGE has been supporting EDGE Fellow Kimitei Keneth, an assistant research scientist with the Kenya Wildlife Service, to monitor a translocated hirola population in Tsavo East National Park and raise awareness of the plight of this noble animal. The results of his study will reveal essential information about this new hirola group, such as population size, habitat requirements, threats and whether these hirola are successful reproducing in their new surroundings.
You can help conserve the hirola by donating to the EDGE of Existence programme and help us support vital efforts to save this incredible species.