by Butynski, T.M. (2000)
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.
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