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BUTINSKY, T. M. (2000)

Independent Evaluation of Hirola Antelope Beatragus hunteri Conservation Status and Conservation Action in Kenya.

Technical Report, September 2000. 189 Seiten. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1129.2246

Executive Summary:

The hirola (or Hunter’s antelope) Beatragus hunteri is a "Critically Endangered" genus and species endemic to south-east Kenya and south-west Somalia. This report compiles much of the information that is available on this species, and reviews and evaluates its taxonomy, abundance, distribution, and conservation status. This report also evaluates the major activities implemented on behalf of the conservation of the hirola and makes recommendations for the conservation of this species/genus both in situ and ex situ.

The hirola is one of the world’s most threatened genera of large mammal. This species is now either in low numbers or extinct in Somalia. The natural population in Kenya declined from about 14,000 individuals in the l970s to somewhere between 500 and 2,000 animals today.The historic range of the hirola in Kenya and Somalia is estimated at roughly 38,400 km2. The range of the hirola in Kenya declined from about 17,900 km2 in the 1960s to approximately 7,600 km2 in 1996. Today, only the central portion of the species’ historic range in Kenya is occupied.

In 1963, a founder population of 10-20 hirola was released into Tsavo East National Park. This population grew to 79 individuals by 1996. In 1996, another 29 hirola were placed into this population. There were an estimated 105 hirola in the Tsavo population in 1998. This population now ranges over an area of ca. 600 km2.

The decline of the hirola on the species’ natural range is probably due to a combination of factors, including disease, drought, poaching, competition with livestock, habitat loss and degradation. This report discusses the possible contribution of each of these factors to the decline of the hirola. The most likely scenario is that a combination of rinderpest and food shortage (due to drought, competition with livestock and habitat loss/degradation) caused the natural population of hirola to crash between 1983 and 1985, from at least 10,000 animals to fewer than 2,000 animals. Continuing disease and poaching on the natural range have probably combined to prevent this population from recovering.

The following are among the more important recommendations put forth in this report for the conservation of the hirola:

  • Transfer the focus of the field research programme from the ex situ population in Tsavo East National Park to the in situ “natural population” in Garissa District and increase the number of Kenya and Somali researchers.
  • Abandon attempts to determine the absolute size of the natural population of hirola and begin a monitoring program that provides information on relative population size and population trend.
  • Future translocations from the natural population to new sites should only capture yearlings. This should be done by darting from a helicopter. There appears to be no good rational for capturing adults or for capturing entire groups.
  • Retain at least part of the populations of newly translocated hirola in large (4-10 km2) bomas. This should significantly enhance population establishment and growth.
  • Every effort needs to be made to save the hirola in situ while establishing several ex situ populations and a captive population as “insurance” against the possible failure to save the in situ population. To help ensure the long-term survival of the hirola, five additional populations should be established in Kenya and a viable captive population must be established outside of Kenya. The priority site for the introduction of the next population of hirola on a KWS managed area is Meru National Park, followed by Tsavo West National Park. The priority site for the establishment of a hirola population on a private game sanctuary is the Ol Jogi
    (Pyramid) Wildlife Sanctuary, followed by the Athi River Game Ranch. Most of the founder animals for these new populations should come from the natural population in Garissa District, after careful and full negotiation with local stakeholders. As an initial undertaking, however, consideration should be given to translocating the threatened Mackinnon Group of 15 hirola from the heavily poached Kulalu Ranch (east of Tsavo East National Park) to the Ol Jogi (Pyramid) Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • KWS, with assistance from the Hirola Management Committee, should reestablish its presence within the natural range of the hirola. The priority should be to reestablish the KWS base at Ijara, followed by reestablishment of the KWS base at Massa Bubu.
  • KWS, with assistance from the Hirola Management Committee, needs to renew and greatly expand its conservation education, public awareness and public relations work within the natural range of the hirola, particularly in Garissa District. This might be achieved largely by working with and through the Harroru Community Hirola Conservation Group, the Garissa Development Committee and the Garissa District Administration.

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