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Beatragus hunteri


Perhaps the world’s rarest and most endangered antelope, the hirola is the sole survivor of a formerly diverse group, and is often referred to as a living fossil.

They are the sole member of their genus, Beatragus, they come from the larger family of Bovidae; which include sheep, buffalo, cows and antelopes. The hirola belongs to the subfamily Alcelaphinae (which includes hartebeests, wildebeests, and topi). This subfamily is thought to have diverged from the other bovid subfamilies during the early Miocene around 7 million years ago, probably as a result of the separation of the African and Eurasian continents.

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.

Hirola have dark glands under their eyes used to mark their territories, giving them the name the four eyed antelope. Once common throughout East Africa, the hirola 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 rare and beautiful antelope is to survive.

  • Order: Cetartiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Population: 402 - 466
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 1.2 - 2m (?)
  • Weight: 68 - 115kg (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Hirola are restricted to an area of approximately 7,600 km² along the border of Kenya and Somalia. In Kenya the species is found in the Ijara, Garissa, Tana River and Lamu districts. There is a small translocated population in Tsavo East National Park, outside the species’ natural range.

Habitat and Ecology

The hirola are found in short-grassed, seasonally arid plains between dry acacia bush and coastal forest. They are selective grazers, with their diet consisting mainly of short grasses.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Urban development Tourism Habitat change Droughts Extreme temperatures Extreme weather Crops Livestock Fossil fuel Mining Renewables Roads/Rail Utility lines Hunting Wars Work Fire Dams Ecosystem changes Invasive species Native species Diseases Industry Agriculture Garbage Air Pollution

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: EDGE

Vision (30-50 years)

Establish and sustain a conservation program to make lasting contributions to the future of hirola antelope and of local communities within the hirola’s geographic range.

Goal (5-10 years)

To assess the current status of the hirola antelope across its range, and ensure the effective protection of and connectivity between known populations.


Known populations are effectively protected Critical
Range restoration effort initiated and sustained Critical
Mechanisms for regional  cooperation on all aspects of hirola antelope conservation established Critical
National hirola action plans produced in both Kenya and Somalia endorsed in all states Critical
The conservation strategy is coordinated and resourced Critical
Conservation funding and effort increased High
Key corridors identified and managed High
Poaching pressure on hirola antelope reduced High
Causes of habitat loss mitigated High
The ex-situ population within coordinated breeding programmes is managed for future reintroductions High
Status in each area assessed  Medium
The regional Protected Area Network is fully effective to meet the needs of hirola antelope conservation Medium
Hirola antelope are recognized as a flagship species for Garissa County Medium

Kimitei Keneth

  • Project name: Long Term Monitoring Of The Translocated Hirola Population In Tsavo East National Park
  • Project site: Tsavo East National Park, Kenya
  • Active: 2008 - 2009
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Abdullahi Hussein Ali

  • Project name: Causes and consequences of landscape change for hirola populations in Ijara, Kenya
  • Project site: Kenya
  • Active: 2011 - ongoing
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