Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The Critically Endangered hirola is a grazing antelope that can be found feeding most intensively on the grassy plains in the early morning and evening, using its large molars to chew the coarse grass (2). Like many other mammals inhabiting the hot, dry plains of Africa, the hirola can go for long periods without drinking, and survives drought by storing fat and avoiding unnecessary energetic activity (2). Females and their young form groups of between 5 and 40 individuals (2), while the role of mature males depends on population density and ecological factors (3). In areas and times of abundant food, males are thought to defend territories, and mark the area boundaries with faeces and secretions from the facial glands (3). They then attempt to mate with females that come to feed in the territory (3). In other areas, males defend a group of females, firmly leading them into new feeding areas or herding them from the rear (3). When competing for females or defending their territories males can assume two fighting positions; they adopt an unusual kneeling position when fighting intensely, and a standing position when sparring (2). Hirolas mate mostly during the long rains in February and March (3), leading to a gestation that lasts about 240 days (5). Females separate from their group to give birth to a calf at the beginning of the short rains in October and November (2) (3). Newborn calves are vulnerable prey for jackals, dogs, hyenas, and large cats and eagles (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Description

Numbers of this rare antelope have recently drastically declined and the species is now in danger of imminent extinction (2). As the sole surviving species of the once abundant Beatragus genus (3), the hirola's extinction would mean not only the loss of a species, but also the loss of an entire ancient antelope group. Discovered in 1888 by the big game hunter and zoologist H.C.V. Hunter (4), the hirola is a sandy-coloured antelope with long legs, body and face and a short neck (2). Male hirolas turn slate-grey as they age (2). The face is characterised by white 'spectacles' around the eyes linked by a narrow, white chevron (2) (5), and pronounced, dark scent-glands under the eyes become enlarged when excited, leading to the hirola's other name of 'four-eyed antelope' (4). The lyrate, heavily-ringed horns are beautiful but dangerous weapons, used in fights with rivals. The thick skin at the nape of the hirola's neck folds up behind the horns when the ears are pricked, offering a degree of protection against the sharp horns of an opponent (2). The black-tipped ears and long tail are startlingly white (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

MammalMAP

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/

  • Butynski, T. M. 2000. Taxonomy and distribution of the hirola antelope. Gnusletter 19(2): 11-17
  • ,Kenya Wildlife Service Kenya Wildlife Service/Hirola Management Committee. 2004. Strategic Management Plan for the Hirola (Beatragus hunteri) 2004-2009, Andanje 2001, Kingdom 1997, Nowak 1999,
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© MammalMAP

Supplier: MammalMAP

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Range Description

The Hirola is endemic to north-east Kenya and south-west Somalia. Historical distribution is estimated to have covered ca. 17,900 km² in Kenya and ca. 20,500 km² in Somalia (Bunderson 1981, East 1999, Butynski in press). In Kenya, Hirola currently occur between Garsen, Bura and Galma Galla/Kolbio over an area of ca. 8,000 km² (Butynski 1999). Current status in south-west Somalia is not known, but its former range has been badly affected by prolonged civil and military conflicts that continued up to early 2007.

There is a small translocated population in Tsavo East National Park, outside the species’ natural range. This originated from a translocation of 30 animals from Garissa District conducted in 1963. It is thought that most of these perished soon after release and that the size of the “effective founder population” was only 11 to 19 animals (Butynski 1999). A further 10 animals were translocated to Tsavo East in 1996 (Hofmann 1996).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Geographic Range

Hirola are found in the area between the Tana River in Kenya and the Juba River in Somalia. In 1963 a small population of about 20 individuals were introduced into the Tsavo East National Park from the South Garissa District.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Introduced , Native )

  • Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingon Field Guide to African Mammals. London and California: Academic Press.
  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World Sixth Edition Volume II. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range

Historically the hirola may have had a large distribution, but since the 1960s it has been confined to a rapidly shrinking corner of south-east Kenya and southern Somalia (2). It is now thought to possibly be extinct in Somalia (5).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Hirola have long legs, a long body, long face with a slightly convex forehead, and a relatively short neck. Total body length ranges from 1200 to 2050 mm, tail length from 300 to 450 mm, and height at the shoulder from 1000 to 1250 mm.

Generally a mixture of soft and coarser hairs that vary in color from sandy brown to slate grey cover the body. The ears are white with black tips and the tail is white. A white line passes across the forehead from one eye to the other creating a white emphasis around the eyes in the likeness of a mask.

The horns of both males and females are angular, curved, and slightly flared. They are ringed most of the length of the horn, and reach about 700mm in length when fully developed.

Range mass: 65 to 155 kg.

Range length: 1200 to 2050 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; ornamentation

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Hirola inhabit semi-arid thorn bush, open bush grassland, to light woodland, and lush savanna grassland. Their preferred habitat is seasonally flooded, open grassland with scattered small shrubs and trees on well-drained soils with short leafy swards of grass formed by fire, or by the combined grazing pressure of wildlife and domestic livestock (Bunderson 1981, Butynski in press).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Beatragus hunteri inhabits short-grass, seasonally arid, grasslands in dry acacia bush/scrub and forest-savannah mosaic habitats.

Suitable 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.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; scrub forest

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

The remaining hirolas inhabit a narrow strip of seasonally arid, grassy plains (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Hirola are selective grazers, depending on short grasses. Occasionaly they have been oberserved to consume forbs. Their selectivity creates a need to follow the progress of newly sprouting grasses on the savannah and grasslands. If grasses grow too long, or if the grasses are disturbed by other grazers, they will move to another area.  Early evening and morning are the times of highest intensity feeding.

Hirola are able to survive lengthy periods without drinking by avoiding energetic activities and storing fats.

Grasses eaten include Panicum infestum, Digitaria rivae, and Latipes senegalensis. Forbes eaten include Portulaca oleraceae, Commelina erecta, and Tephrosia subtriglora.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Ecosystem Roles

It is likely that hirola play an important role in their habitats by influencing the growth and composition of plant communities. They also act as important prey species for large predators.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

In the Garissa area, hirola are preyed on by lions and hunting dogs, while in the Tsavo region, they are preyed on by cheetahs and lions. Hyenas and eagles prey on young soon after birth and before the mother and calf rejoin the herd. Poaching plays a role in the 'predation' of Hirola. The poachers are composed of military personal, civilians, herdsmen, and local gangs.

Hirola avoid predation by remaining in the herd, thereby relying on the vigilance of many individuals.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Known predators

Damaliscus hunteri is prey of:
Accipitridae
Homo sapiens
Panthera leo
Acinonyx jubatus
Lycaon pictus
Hyaeninae

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© SPIRE project

Source: SPIRE

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Preorbital gland secretions and posturing are used in male-male competition for access to females. Females are also likely to communicate their reproductive state via chemical cues.

Communication Channels: visual ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

In captivity, the average lifespan of hirola is 10.2 years. Lifespan in the wild is unknown (Huffman, 2001; Solomon Kyalo, pers.comm.).

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
10.2 years.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: Little is known about the longevity of these endangered animals, but one captive specimen lived 15.2 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Males compete among themselves for access to females and generally defend territories in which they maintain a harem of about 7 or 8 females. Male posturing includes head-flagging, marking of grass stems with preorbital glands, ground scraping with their hooves, and dung accumulations. Aggressive fighting between males is different from play-fighting by their stance. Earnest fights take place on their knees, whereas play-fighting takes place in an upright position.

Mating System: polygynous

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.

Breeding interval: Hirolas breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in March and April.

Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .

Average number of offspring: 1.

Range gestation period: 7 to 8 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 3 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 4 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Females nurse and care for their young, who are capable of standing and running soon after birth. Calving females will separate from the group for the two weeks following birth. During this time the female and the calf are vulnerable to predation. When the calf has reached yearling status, it separates from the herd to join a sub group of yearlings.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); post-independence association with parents

  • Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingon Field Guide to African Mammals. London and California: Academic Press.
  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World Sixth Edition Volume II. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Andanje, S. 2001. "Hirola Conservation PhD Study by Andanje" (On-line). Accessed October 8, 2001 at http://www.kenya-wildlift-service.org/andanje.htm.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2cd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group

Reviewer/s
Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)

Contributor/s

Justification
Given a conservative estimate of generation time at nine years, the 85 to 90% decline (and continuing) since 1980 has occurred over three generations and meets the threshold for Critically Endangered under criterion A2, and on the basis of direct observation, decline in area of occupancy and habitat quality and levels of exploitation.

History
  • 2007
    Critically Endangered
  • 1996
    Critically Endangered
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Rare
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Rare
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

In 2012, Beatragus hunteri was included among the world's 100 most threatened species in a report by the IUCN Species Survival Commission and the Zoological Society of London.

(Baillie & Butcher 2012; Harvey 2012)

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Dana Campbell

Supplier: Dana Campbell

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Hirola populations suffered two drastic declines during 1976-1978 and then in 1995. In 1976-1978 the population declined from 14,000 individuals to about 2,000 for unknown reasons. The second decline saw the population decrease from ~2,000 to 300, this decline was attributed to hunting by poachers, competition with cattle, and loss of habitat due to human encroachment. The natural habitat of hirola occurs in southwestern Somalia and southeastern Kenya, though the Somalian population is thought to be extinct or only occuring in small patchy groups. Hirola are considered one of the world's rarest species.

Conservation efforts have been underway for this species since 1963 when they were reported to be threatened. A small population was relocated in Tsavo East National Park and placed under protection by the park. By 1996 the population had reached 56 individuals. That same year, 35 more individuals were relocated to the park from Kenya in the operation "Hirola Now or Never" to increase the genetic diversity of the park population.

Efforts are being made to study the wild populations and to immplement community programs to educate local people about this species and how to help conserve it.

(Solomon Kyalo, pers. comm.)

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population
In 1979, there were ca. 16,000 animals in Kenya on 17,900 km². Estimated numbers decreased from 12,500 in the early to mid-1970s to about 7,000 in 1977-83, followed by a drastic decline (85 to 90%) between 1983 and 1985 caused by the severe drought of 1984 (Butynski 1999). Ground surveys suggested a population of between 500 and 2,000 in Kenya in 1995/1996 (Andanje and Ottichilo 1999, Butynski 1999, Dahiye and Aman 2002). Somalia had ca. 2,000 Hirola in 1979, but has few, if any, today (Butynski 1999). Overall, numbers have fallen by 85 to 90% since 1980 and are still declining (East 1999, Butynski in press).

The translocated population in Tsavo East National Park numbers ca. 105 individuals, an increase from the 56 to 76 animals in 1995/1996 (Andanje and Ottichilo 1999, Butynski in press).

Population Trend
Decreasing
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Major Threats
Hunting, disease, drought, habitat loss, and competition with livestock. Lack of effective protection leaves it vulnerable to poaching. The development of the cattle industry, compounded by rinderpest and drought are continuing threats. The Tsavo population additionally faces predation by relatively high densities of large carnivores and competition from a greater variety of other wild herbivore species (but much lower numbers of cattle) than in its natural range (East 1999, Butynski in press).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Numbers of hirola have declined severely; from 10,000 in the 1970s, to just 300 in 1995 (2). The remaining tiny population is now considered to be at risk of imminent extinction (2). Competition with cattle, severe drought, disease and poaching are all factors that have contributed to devastating hirola populations (3) (4). Unfortunately, the hirola's preference for areas that are used by livestock puts them at increased risk from diseases like rinderpest and tuberculosis (3).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This is one of the most highly threatened antelopes in Africa. Recommendations for the long-term conservation of the Hirola in Kenya have been included in a conservation action plan (Magin 1996) and a conservation evaluation report (Butynski 1999). These recommendations are now part of the current conservation and management plan for the Hirola in Kenya (Hirola Management Committee 2004) and are being acted upon by the Kenya Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the Hirola Management Committee and local conservation NGOs. There is an urgent need to improve the level of management and protection of the one natural population of Hirola, particularly in the Arawale National Reserve and in the Galma Galla/Kolbio region of Kenya. Community conservation and anti-poaching activities must be established over a large portion of the remaining range, but insecurity for conservation workers is an extremely serious problem in this region. Consideration should be given to establishing protected areas at Galma Galla and Lag Dere, and to expanding the Tana Primate National Reserve to the east to include at least 300 km² of prime habitat for Hirola (Butynski in press). There are only two Hirola in captivity.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

In 1963, 10 to 20 hirola were released into Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, which grew to a population of 79 individuals by 1996. In 1996, another 29 hirola were translocated into the Tsavo East population, resulting in an estimated population of 100 hirola in Tsavo East National Park (6). The Hirola Management Committee (HNC) was also formed in 1994, with the aim of conserving this species in their natural range. The HNC created the Hirola Strategic Management Plan which outlined hirola conservation measures for the next five years (7). This included creating protected areas, reducing exposure to livestock diseases, careful monitoring, and promoting income generating eco-tourism for this unique species (7); measures that will hopefully pull this beautiful antelope back from the edge of extinction.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects of hirola on humans.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Hirola are sometimes hunted for meat, they have suffered drastic declines as a result of overhunting in the past.

Positive Impacts: food

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Hirola

The hirola (Beatragus hunteri, sometimes Damaliscus hunteri), also known as Hunter's hartebeest or "Hunter's antelope", is an antelope species found in arid grassy plains in a pocket on the border between Kenya and Somalia. They were discovered in 1888 by the zoologist H.C.V. Hunter.[2] These antelopes were first recognized as a distinct taxon in 1989, it is the only extant member of the genus Beatragus.[3] According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List "The loss of the Hirola would be the first extinction of a mammalian genus on mainland Africa in modern human history." [4]

Description[edit]

Hirola are known as the "four-eyed antelope," due to their large preorbital glands.[5] Shoulder height 39-42 inches (115–123 cm). These animals have a head length of about 120 cm, and a body length of about 200 cm. The weight of these animals can range from 80 kg to 118 kg.[6] The horns on these animals can reach an impressive length of 70 cm, while the tail can be 10-60 cm in length.[7]Their coat is a sandy brown colour, greyer in males than females, with a lighter underbelly and a small white strip over the bridge of the nose. The nape of the neck has very thick skin which forms ridges when the ears are pricked up. The horns are lyre shaped and very conspicuously ringed. The longevity of the hirola in the wild is not known. However, the longevity of hirola antelope in captivity is 10.2 years.[8]

Behaviour[edit]

They are diurnal and spend the mornings and evenings grazing. Herds are usually led by a dominant male hirola, with an accompaniment of up to 8 females where other males actively compete for. It is not uncommon, though, to see small groups of less dominant and younger males grazing together as well. While they generally travel in small herds, the larger herds can contain up to 40 to 50 hirola. The life expectancy of the hirola is unknown in the wild, but in captivity, it is around 10 years.[7]

Breeding[edit]

Female hirola reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years of age. Males do not begin mating until they are able to compete with other hirola for a female mate, which is usually 3-4 years after birth. Mating season for hirola is generally around March-April. The gestation period of this group of creatures is around 7-8 months, with a single calf being born somewhere in October-November. Female hirola move away from the heard to give birth to their calf, and tend to stay away from the heard for another 2 weeks. While newborn hirola are able to stand and run around shortly after birth, this period of time away from the herd still leaves the mother and her calf vulnerable to predators such as lions and hyenas.[7]

Diet and habitat[edit]

Hirola are usually found in places that have plain grass and most of the population is found in Somalia and the border of Kenya. Their groups range from 2-40 which consists of the female, male, offspring and occasionally dominant male. Males that don't usually have a group to dominante usually lead a group of bachelor males.[7] The hirola population are selective grazers that primarily feeds on grasses and, consequently, the population inhabit fairly open and short grassland. [9] Like most creatures inhabiting the arid African climates, the hirola can go long periods of time without drinking water. During periods of drought, the hirola stores fat and avoids unnecessary energetic activities in order to preserve water.[10]

Threat[edit]

The species is in decline. Today the main threats to the species’ survival include disease, predation, competition for grazing and water with domestic livestock, habitat loss due to bush encroachment, and severe drought.[11] The Hirola prefers areas that are used by livestock which puts them at increased risk from diseases like tuberculosis[12] Due to lack of protection they are also still very vulnerable to poaching. The population of hirola that reside in Tsavo park are also threatened by the relatively high density of carnivorous predators along with a greater diversity of wild herbivores than their natural habitat. [13] Known predators[14] include:

Population size and distribution[edit]

The hirola population has declined significantly, more than 80 percent since 1976. There is a recent estimate that the hirola population in Kenya to be about 1,500 animals, sparsely distributed through the area during the wet season. The hirola antelope population is largely limited to the border area between Kenya and Somalia. The hirola’s natural range has not changed fundamentally since its discovery, but was reported to be contracting as early as the 1970s. Its current range in Somalia is not known.[15] Group size of hirola antelope has been estimated to be between 1 and 20 individuals, with a mean of 6.1.[16] The Arawale National Reserve in Kenya, a wildlife area containing several threatened species, covers only about six percent of the Kenyan hirola population[16] In 1963, a small population of 30 was translocated to Tsvao East National Park outside the species' natural range, although the majority were believed to have died shortly after the move. In 1996 an additional 10 were translocated to Tsavo East. As a result there exists a sub-population of hirola outside its natural range.

Status and conservation[edit]

Hirola are critically endangered. There are between 500 and 1200 animals in the wild and none currently in captivity. Counts in the 1970s found around 14,000 animals and another count in the 1980s found 7000 animals. The hirola's decline is believed to have been brought on by competition with cattle and by the drought which has plagued the region.Hirola

Despite being one of the rarest antelopes, conservation measures for the hirola antelope have so far been marginal. The Arawale National Reserve was created in 1973 as a small sanctuary for the hirola but has been left unmaintained since the 1980s.[17]

In late 2005, four local communities in the Ijara District have, in collaboration with Terra Nuova, developed and put forward a proposal to formally establish the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy for the in situ protection of hirola.

In January 2010, Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy (IHCC), was funded by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and USAID-Kenya, to conduct a survey to estimate the remaining population of this species in its natural range. The survey was undertaken by three 2-seater and one 4-seater aircraft, counting teams, ground crews and GIS experts. The survey found only three areas with significant numbers of hirola. After 8 days of searching, only 245 hirola were counted from the air. While this is likely to be a slight undercount (this was verified by comparing ground and aerial counts in Ishaqbini) it is believed that there aren’t any other large herds or significant concentrations of hirola remaining in their natural range.

Another diseases that caused problems in the Hirola was the rinderpest cattle virus. Yet since the it had been declared a problem to cattle there have been efforts to wipe the virus since the 1900s. It was declared extinct in 2010 by the United Nations, with the last known case being in Kenya of 2002.[18]

The hirola was identified as one of the top-10 "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.[19] Scientists of EDGE have since placed collars onto hirola from the remaining herds in order to track their movement and the population stability of these herds.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Beatragus hunteri. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of critically endangered.
  2. ^ http://www.arkive.org/hirola/beatragus-hunteri/
  3. ^ Grubb, P. (2005). "Order Artiodactyla". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 675. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  4. ^ http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/?11534/A-sanctuary-for-Hirola
  5. ^ Madar, A; Nadeau, M, eds. (2010). "Southern Kenya". Frommer's Kenya and Tanzania. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc. pp. 102–125. ISBN 978-0-470-28558-9. 
  6. ^ http://www.arkive.org/hirola/beatragus-hunteri/
  7. ^ a b c d http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/hoofed_mammals/hirola.html
  8. ^ http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Beatragus_hunteri/
  9. ^ Afr. J. Ecol.1999, Volume 37, pages 38–48
  10. ^ http://www.arkive.org/hirola/beatragus-hunteri/
  11. ^ Kenya Wildlife Service/Hirola Management Committee. 2004. Strategic Management Plan for the Hirola (Beatragus hunteri) 2004-2009.
  12. ^ Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  13. ^ The red list http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/6234/0
  14. ^ Olney,H. (2001)Beatragus hunterihirola. Animal Diversity Web at the University of Michigan. Museaum of Zoology retrieved from http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Beatragus_hunteri/
  15. ^ http://neaasg.org/neaasg/index.php/species/antelopes/beatragus-hunteri
  16. ^ a b http://proceedings.esri.com/library/userconf/proc07/papers/papers/pap_xx02.pdf
  17. ^ http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b5a46c45-63b2-4803-999d-db01bfc3174a%40sessionmgr15&vid=2&hid=16
  18. ^ NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/16/science/16pest.html?_r=0
  19. ^ "Protection for 'weirdest' species". BBC. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  20. ^ http://www.liveviewgps.com/blog/rare-hirola-antelope-monitored-gps-tracking-technology/

Further reading[edit]

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!