The Ishaqbini Hirola Sanctuary in Garissa County has collared 5 critically endangered Hirola antelope as it seeks to conserve the world’s most endangered antelope.
The exercise was done in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Northern Rangelands Trust, and will help monitor their movement patterns within the Sanctuary and in future the wider Ishaqbini Community Conservancy once they are released from the sanctuary.
There has been a huge increase in the population of hirola antelope in the Sanctuary since it was established in 2012.
With a founder population of 48 hirola, by December 2019 the population of hirola in the Sanctuary reached approximately 118-130 animals.
This annual population growth rate growth rate is at 13% and accounts to approximately 20-25% of the global population of hirola.
“After observations, and the successful breeding of the hirola, the Sanctuary is reaching its carrying capacity and there is now a need to release male herds out of the Sanctuary into the larger Ishaqbini Conservancy in order to further boost our conservation efforts,” Conservancy manager, Ahmed Noor said.
The collars will send a GPS position twice daily to the sanctuary management team, to enable rangers to monitor the wildlife in readiness for a soft release through a gate system in a large boma.
After the release, the collars will enable Ishaqbini Conservancy to continue monitoring their interaction with other wildlife that are in the free ranging area and the information will help implement conservation efforts to further secure their future.
The hirola has suffered huge population declines over the past 40 years due to disease, habitat loss, poaching, and predation – there is now an estimated wild population of 450 individuals.
This bespectacled antelope is native to the arid Woodlands and Savannahs of the Kenya/Somali border, and is now only found in isolated pockets of Kenya.
“Once released in the expanded sanctuary, we will continue to work with the local communities and other partners to ensure a sustained hirola growth through the sanctuary expansion,” KWS Senior Scientist Geoffrey Bundotich said.
To curb potential disease outbreaks that have proved fatal to hirola in the past, disease surveillance and management has been ongoing in Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy.
An ongoing vaccination exercise supported by San Diego Zoo Global is expected to vaccinate over 50,000 head of livestock, including sheep, goats and cattle, against viruses and bacteria infections. In 2019, 63,000 heads of livestock were vaccinated.
“We are working with the community and the county government of Garissa (Veterinary Dept.) and continue to target livestock for vaccination to prevent cross-infection of disease amongst domestic and wildlife species. In the 70s there was an estimated 15,000 Hirola however, a rinderpest outbreak resulted in mass deaths of domestic and wildlife and in turn the loss of over 80% of the hirola population,” Northern Rangelands Trust Veterinarian Dr. Stephen Chege said.
As well as hosting a thriving population of the most endangered antelope in the world, the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy is also home to a variety of other species including reticulated giraffe, warthog, lesser kudu, gerenuk, ostrich and even a unique herd of largely maneless plains zebra.
The exercise is a partnership between the Ishaqbini Community Conservancy, Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the County Government of Garissa, funded by San Diego Zoo Global, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Disney Conservation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Sidekick Foundation, New Mexico Community Foundation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Tusk Trust, Embassy of Denmark through DANIDA, David Cotton, Saint Louis Zoo, World Wide Fund (WWF) and Indianapolis