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Hirola Antelope: Why Is It Endangered?

Hirola Antelope is a rare antelope that lives in the Hirola Basin of Kenya. The antelopes are endangered, with only 400 of these species left in the world.

  • Status: Critically endangered
  • Known as: Hirola Antelope, Hunter’s hartebeest, Hirola
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: 400

This animal has been on the IUCN Red List since 1988 and it is estimated that it will become extinct in less than 10 years if nothing changes to protect them.

Their numbers have declined drastically due to poaching and habitat loss. The Hirolas live in dry scrublands where there is not enough food for them because their natural predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, and jackals have been hunted out by people hunting Hirolas for meat or trophies.

With so many Hirolas being poached, these antelopes are now losing the tiny bit of habitat they have left. The antelope species is therefore at extremely high risk of extinction within 10 years.


Hirola Antelope
Photo by Philip Sclater – The Book of Antelopes, Public Domain

The antelope species is a rare and endangered antelope found in the Hirola Basin of Kenya.

They are a very uncommon type of antelope, with only about 400 Hirolas left. Hirola are most known for having side stripes that go down to the ground, so they can blend in with the wild grass.

They also have an ankle-length mane made up of long hair running from head to chest. These features make antelopes in Hirola highly camouflaged prey animals; whenever you see one, it’s usually too late!

The main threats to Hirolas are poaching and habitat destruction. This species is killed for its meat and horns, which are used in traditional medicine. Habitat loss is caused by deforestation and development.

See Related: Endangered Deer Species

Anatomy and Appearance

Hirola in the savanna of Tsavo West Park in Kenya
Demande Philippe / Adobe Stock

It is a rare antelope that lives in the Hirola Basin of Kenya. It is one of the few remaining antelopes in the world. The antelope is an herbivore and grazes on grasses. These antelope have brown fur and a white underbelly. The species’ horns are long and slender and curve backward.

The Hirola is a large antelope, weighing between 80 and 120 kilograms and standing 1 to 1.25 meters tall at the shoulder. Its sturdy body is covered in light brown fur with white “eyebrow” markings on the face.

Two superbly curved and rippled horns rise from this animal’s brow, coming to long, slim, sharp points that make effective weapons for defense or breeding-season disputes.

The Hirola has a long nose and, from the side, a dished-in face which gives it a very distinctive look. Its ears are also long, but its neck is quite short by antelope standards, which gives it an almost bovine look from some angles.


These antelopes are found in adjacent areas of Kenya and Somalia, though it is feared that the Somalian population may be extinct. Its native range was formerly much larger. These antelope prefer grassy plains, as grazing animals that rely on speed to escape predators.

Hirola Antelope Habitat

hirola’s geographic range is on the open, grassy plains of Africa, this antelope is a grazer, but a fairly specialized one. It does not feed on long grass but centers its foraging efforts on short, newly sprouted grass. This means that the Hirola must move constantly from place to place, looking for new grass.

The creatures are crepuscular, feeding heavily mostly around sunrise and again immediately after sunset. Most of the time, these antelopes live in small herds of up to a dozen animals, though they sometimes band together temporarily.

Hirola Antelope Diet and Nutrition

The species are herbivores and their diet consists of leaves, shoots, and fruits. Antelopes are able to digest a wide range of plants due to their well-developed foregut fermentation system.

Hirola have a high tolerance for toxins in plants due to the presence of bacteria in their gut that breaks down the toxins. They are also able to eat during the night when other animals are resting. The antelope are able to survive in areas with little water due to their ability to extract moisture from their food.

Hirola Antelope Mating Habits

Mother and child  Hirola Antelope
Demande Philippe / Adobe Stock

This antelope species is a monogamous animal, meaning that it mates with only one partner during its lifetime.

It is also a seasonal breeder, meaning that it breeds only during certain times of the year. Antelope calves are born between January and March, typically during the early evening hours.

Antelope mating occurs during the Hirola’s breeding season. Hirola live in herds, with about five to ten Hirolas of both genders per herd. Hirola of different sex and age gather into large groups for dancing rituals, which allow females to choose their mates.

After mating, the adult males leave the herd to find a new one. The Antelope mating is an important part of the Hirola’s reproduction process and is necessary for the continuation of this species. female Hirola give birth after a gestation period of about eight months.

Herd structure

Flock of hirolas grazing in the savanna
Demande Philippe / Adobe Stock

Male Hirolas defend a harem of females from other males, with fights sometimes becoming quite fierce as the antelopes use their sharp, potentially lethal horns in combat. There are also bachelor herds made up of young males with no harems yet.

Females, unfortunately for the species, leave the herd temporarily and give birth alone, making them tempting targets for predation.

Sexual maturity occurs at around three years of age, and the antelopes live perhaps ten years on average and may remain separate from the group for up to two months.

Hirola Role in the Ecosystem

Hirola in the Savanna, Africa
Demande Philippe / Adobe Stock

The antelope is an important part of the ecosystem in the Hirola Basin of Kenya.

This animal grazes on grasslands and helps to keep these areas healthy and functioning. Antelopes are also prey for other animals in the area, such as lions and leopards. By helping to preserve the species we are also helping to preserve the delicate balance of the ecosystem in which they live.

Hirola Antelope Facts

  • Here are the interesting facts about species of Antelope in Hirola
  • They are endangered with only 400 left
  • The species is not native to Kenya but migrates there each year
  • They live in the Hirola Basin of Kenya for six months out of the year
  • They are the most endangered antelope in the world
  • They are preyed upon by lions, hyenas, and cheetahs
  • They have a reddish-brown coat with white stripes running down their sides
  • They are about 3 feet tall and weigh about 80 pounds
  • They are herbivores and eat grass, leaves, and flowers

Conservation Status

Flock of hirolas grazing in the savannah of Nairobi
Demande Philippe / Adobe Stock

The Hirola Antelope is categorized as endangered. The Hirola Basin, which is where you can find Hirola, has about 400 of these species left.

They are threatened by the poaching of wildlife for commercial reasons, habitat loss, and competition with domestic livestock for grasslands and wooded savannahs. There are many people that want to preserve the antelopes because they are interesting creatures.

Anti-poaching efforts are also one of the many ways that antelope conservation has been carried out in the Hirola Basin, where methods such as population and habitat assessment are carried out.


A battery of hazards threatens the survival of this species, whose current population has dropped from approximately 10,000 individuals to 400 over the course of thirty to forty years.

Direct killing in the form of hunting and poaching is the largest threat to Hirolas, but there are many other problems as well. Overgrazing and climate change have resulted in drought conditions throughout the region, which negatively impacted the hirola populations.

Close contact with domestic animals has also led to the Hirola’s decline due to infection with various diseases. Rinderpest and tuberculosis are the most important of these. Species’ natural range destruction has also made it progressively more difficult for animals to recover.

Conservation efforts

Though the Hirola lives in theoretically protected areas, policing is next to impossible with the funds currently available. An organization is known as the Hirola Management Committee, or HMC is spearheading conservation efforts to create more protected areas, predator-proof sanctuaries, and improve enforcement.

Wisely, they are also seeking to make the antelope valuable to local people by promoting eco-tourism to see the Hirolas. Reintroduction of these animals to Tsavo East National Park has also been successful, with the herd increasing to at least 100 individuals since release.

See Related: Best Conservation Posters


African Wild Dog Conservancy

African Wild Dog Conservancy Logo

African Wild Dog Conservancy operates in Kenya to protect antelopes species in Hirola Basin through research programs, educational programs, and by training the local communities.

Final Thoughts

Hirola Antelopes are a rare and endangered species that live in the Hirola Basin of Kenya.

Hirola have been threatened by poaching, habitat destruction, competition with domestic livestock for grasslands with light bush, drought conditions throughout the region due to climate change, and disease from close contact with domesticated animals.

Antelope intensive conservation efforts include creating more protected areas and improving enforcement while also promoting eco-tourism to see these creatures.

The reintroduction of Hirolas into Tsavo East National Park has been successful as well! Organizations such as African Wild Dog Conservancy and other organizations such as the Northern Rangelands Trust and Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy work hard every day to protect Hirollas through research programs, educational programs, and training local communities on how best to conserve this animal’s dwindling natural population numbers.

See Related: Goal of Wildlife Conservation


Why Hirola Antelope is a rare antelope?

The Hirola is a rare antelope because they grow very slowly, having given birth to no one younger than 3 years old! Hirola only every year or two when they’re mature enough to raise younglings by themselves. What does this mean? It means Hirola may go extinct before you even know it existed!

What happened to the hirola population?

This antelope species is an endangered animal, with a population of only 400 Hirola remaining in the Hirola Basin in Kenya.

The Antelope is a dark-colored medium-sized antelope that lives in arid and semi-arid areas. It feeds mostly on grasses and herbs, but will also eat insects such as termites or other animal matter such as bones occasionally (especially when necessary).

They are threatened by losing their habitat due to increased human settlement and tourism development; cattle herd invasion; unregulated hunting; indiscriminate killing due to mistaken identification with other animals.

Alsocompetition for browsing resources from other herbivores such as zebras and wildebeests that require shared resources for their own survival.

Where can I find Hirola species of antelopes?

The antelope species is a rare type of antelope that lives in the Hirola Basin, Kenya. Hirola Region is one of the most endangered parks in East Africa.

What are the dangers to Hirolas species?

Hirola is an endangered species of antelopes that are found in the Hirola Basin.
Hunters have been Hirola’s primary cause of decline as they hunt Hirola for either their meat or for its skin. Some other dangers Hironas faces are lack of predators, agriculture, and a decrease in range size.

The range has decreased from around 18,800km to 11,600km over the past few years with agriculture being the main cause.

Agriculture leads to a change in grasslands which leads to fewer animals living there and consequently Hirolas declining and small population numbers.
Without predators such as lions or cheetahs coming into Hirogen territory, they’ve been left without any natural threats but humans.

The species have been threatened by poaching, habitat loss, competition with domestic livestock or other wild herbivores for grasslands, drought conditions throughout the region due to climate change, and disease from close contact with domesticated animals.

Who would benefit if Hirolas were protected and what does it take to implement them?

These Antelope species are endangered animals, which makes the Hirola conservation program difficult to implement.

Hirola conservation work is not easy because Hirollas are affected by many types of stressors, including drought, hunger, poaching, and war. The Hirola Basin is also small in size with less than 100 km2 to support this population.

However, one way people can protect Hirolas is to make sure development in the Hirola Basin doesn’t result in habitat fragmentation or loss.

Protecting antelope species in general there are steps that humans need to take in order for antelopes to live longer and healthier lives.

Reducing consumption of their main food source due to human encroachment on their natural habitats is one way to help. Antelope thrive on a diet of grasses, leaves, and shoots and can live up to 20 years old in the wild but they are threatened due to changes in their natural habitat.

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