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A Genus May Become Extinct – The Endangered Hirola

Posted November 15, 2011 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

The hirola, a large antelope from Africa, is the last living species of the genus Beatragus. Conservation efforts are under way in Kenya but may not be enough to save the hirola from extinction. It has many predators and has been unable to successfully breed in captivity. The last genus to go extinct was Thylacinus in 1936 when the last Tasmanian tiger died.

Hirola Facts

The hirola is a member of the family Bovidae and has relatives including antelope, cattle, goats, and sheep. A white chevron, or line between the eyes, appears on the hirola's head - it looks like it's wearing glasses! It is known as the four-eyed antelope for another reason - the prevalent preorbital glands on its face. Its long, curved horns are ringed.

Hirola live for about 10 years in captivity. The habitat of this species is located on the border between Kenya and Somalia; it's not known if any hirola still exist in Somalia.

Decline of a Species

Although the population is officially estimated to be between 600 and 2,000 animals, National Geographic reported that conservationists believe fewer than 400 hirola remain. The species' numbers have declined by about 15% in the past year.

An epidemic of rinderpest, a viral disease, occurred between 1983 and 1985 and affected domestic livestock in the region where hirola live. The disease was likely transmitted to the hirola population. They have also suffered from drought.

Predators are one of the main reasons for the decline of the hirola but other reasons are suspect:

  • African lions
  • African wild dogs
  • Lack of available grazing
  • Poaching
  • Human settlement

Conservation

The hirola have been a protected species in Kenya since 1971. Enforcement of this protection has not been strong and poaching is common.

Hirola are relocated to sanctuaries from areas that may no longer be suitable for them. One consideration is that because hirola are free-ranging animals, conservancy in a park-type setting may not work. They are naturally nomads with a mobile habitat. There is a population of about 100 hirola in the Tsavo East National Park.

Resources:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/11/111108-hirolas-extinct-genus-animals-science-africa-antelopes/

http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=37

http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/hoofed_mammals/hirola.html [image]

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Guru
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#1

Re: A Genus May Become Extinct – The Endangered Hirola

11/15/2011 3:25 AM
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Guru

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#2

Re: A Genus May Become Extinct – The Endangered Hirola

11/15/2011 11:04 PM

There is a gene bank in operation exactly for such cases. I saw the presentation for it. Primary purpose is preservation of the genetic material. Secondary purpose is "breeding back" by implantation into related animal's wombs.

Find it, attach yourself to it.

Good luck.

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Guru
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#3
In reply to #2

Re: A Genus May Become Extinct – The Endangered Hirola

11/16/2011 7:23 AM

I have actually written about that on this blog before - Preserving Species: Interspecies Embryo Transfer. It's pretty neat!

The reading I did about the Hirola said that they are not breeding successfully in captivity. I wonder if it would work if they used another species, instead?

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