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MAD MAMMAL MONDAY
The world’s rarest and most endangered antelope called Hirola is the sole survivor of a formerly diverse group, and is also named as a living fossil. It was 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 rare and beautiful antelope is to survive. It was then restricted to the south-eastern coast of Kenya, just south of the border with Somalia.
The tiny antelope with a body length of 120-205 cm, Height: 88-134 cm and the Tail Length: 10-60 cm. The species has an elongated face with a slightly convex forehead. A white line, or chevron, passes from one eye to the other across the forehead, giving the Hirola the appearance of wearing spectacles. The long, thin tail is white, as are the ears, which are tipped with black. The horns are well developed in both sexes; these are lyre-shaped and conspicuously ringed for most of their length, and when fully developed can reach lengths of over 70 cm. Mostly they depend on the grazing lands change over time as they become unsuitable by the invasion of predators or large herds, drought, or over-growth of grasses. The largest known area grazed by a herd is over 100 square km.
According to their mating system Hirolas mate at the beginning of the long rainy season in March or April and gives birth at the beginning of the short rainy season in October and November. Gestation typically lasts 7 to 8 months and a single calf is born, though twins are possible. Females become sexually mature at 2 to 3 years of age, while males do not mate until they are large enough and dominant enough to successfully compete with other males, usually between 3 to 4 year old.
Hirola cluster in harems, consisting of a territorial male, several females, and their young. Small groups of bachelor males and yearlings also occur. Hirola form larger herds ranging in size from 15 to 40 individuals to many hundreds, depending on the time of year. During this time, smaller herds often exchange individuals before breaking apart from the larger group. This exchange of individuals helps decrease the likelihood of genetic drift and inbreeding within smaller herds. Most activity and grazing for hirola, takes place during the morning and evening hours. Please visit our blog at www.mammalmap.blog.com and our virtual museum at http://vmus.adu.org.za/