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The Hirola (Hunters Hartebeest)

Updated on May 11, 2014

Conservation Status

Critically Endangered (IUCN 3.1)(CR A2cd)

Only 500-1200 animals left in the wild. There are none in captivity.

Edge Score 5.49

ED 14.13

The Hirola also known as Hunters Hartebeest(Bea tragus hunteri or sometimes Damalisus hunteri), is a species of Antelope and is the only member of the genus Beatragus. It is referred to as a living fossil.

The Hirola has yet another name, at least a nickname which is "four-eyed" antelope and this is because of the large pre-orbital glands below its eyes.

It can be found on the grassy, but arid grasslands and Savannah in a small pocket that is between the borders of Kenya and Somalia, Though at one time it was common throughout East Africa.

The Hirola is a slender Antelope weighing in at 68kg-115kg. It has a sandy-brown coat , but is paler under its belly and between its legs. Its head which is elongated has a concave forehead and a white line crosses it right between and around the eyes giving the illusion of spectacles. Its ears are white tipped with black and its tail, which grows as long as 60cm is also white.

The Hirola's head and body are 120-205 cm in length at adulthood and they reach heights of 134cm at the shoulder.

Both males and females grow lyre-shaped horns which are very distinctly ringed and these can reach lengths of 70cm.

They are Diurnal, which means they graze in the mornings and evenings, but they are picky eaters preferring short grasses and sometimes forbs and will follow newly sprouting grass across their range. They do avoid areas with long grass.

This elegant antelope tends to move around in herds of 2 to 40 animals which is led by a Territorial male. But there are smaller sub herds of yearlings and bachelor males which usually number around 5 in each group.

Breeding, and why there has been such a Decline in numbers.

The mating season for the Hirola is from March to April, when the territorial bucks will fight for females. Birth of the next generation is generally at the beginning of the short rainy season which is October-November.

A single calf is born away from the herd and mother and baby spend the first 2 weeks alone. This is when they are at their most vulnerable to predators and can be picked off by Hyenas, and any of the big cats that live in the area. The young leave the main herd at around 1 year old and join or form the previously mentioned subgroup. Females become sexually mature at 2-3 years of age, but the males do not until they are 4-5 yearsof age and mature enough to compete for dominance against other males.

The one thing that is an unknown is how long this animals natural lifespan is.

As said before the Hirola was once a common sight throughout East Africa, but there has been a devastating decline in the last 30 years. The numbers dropped from 14,000 to the remaining few today.

Between 1983 and 1985 it coincided with an epidemic of Rinderpest which infected domestic livestock and it appears possible that there was a transmission to the Hirola population.

The Hirola became legally protected from hunting in Kenya in 1971 and inSomalia in 1977, however they are still being poached and what with habitat loss and drought their numbers are still declining.

poachers caught with a Hirola head and a Buffola head
poachers caught with a Hirola head and a Buffola head


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    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 5 years ago

      Yes the WWF is and they do so much good.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I heard about that. WWF is a great organization and has great supporters.

    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 5 years ago

      Thankyou, thankyou, aviannovice, Lets hope not. And I have an update on the Amur Leopard which is good news. They have sent up a huge reservation in Russia.......finally with the help of the World Wildlife Fund.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted up and awesome. Another beautiful animal that will be soon lost if we aren't careful.