Saving the World’s Most Endangered Antelope

Written by John Scaramucci


Ali meeting the Houston Zoo Admissions team

This month the Houston Zoo had a very special visitor from the Hirola Conservation Program (HCP), Dr. Abdullahi H. Ali. He is one of our conservation partners that is doing incredible work in an effort to save the world’s most endangered antelope, the hirola.  He met with several members of the Houston Zoo staff that work on the advisory board of the HCP and others that manage the Hirola Facebook Page to discuss various technical strategies in growing the program and updating them on the work being done in Kenya.

In order to save the hirola, it will take strong leadership and heavy community involvement. There are only about 500 hirola left in the wild, and they are considered critically endangered.  All of the hirola occur outside of federally protected land in Eastern Kenya near the border with Somalia, making it very challenging for anyone to study them.

This has been the mission of Dr. Ali ever since he began his efforts to save hirola in 2005. Dr. Ali is a native born Kenyan of Somali descent. He was raised in a traditional pastoral community, in the heart of hirola country, where their livelihood is tied to herding livestock such as goats, cattle, and camels.  He retained strong ties to his local community even after leaving to attend school and earning his PhD in Ecology.

Hirola, Image Credit Hirola Conservation Program

Through engaging local communities with educational opportunities and inclusion in decision making, Dr. Ali has created a culture of conservation in the region. HCP has established anti-poaching ranger units which employ locals and help protect all the other species which live in the hirola’s habitat, such as cheetah, painted dogs, and gerenuk.

Over the past three decades, hirola populations have declined at an alarming rate. Scientists and field researchers believe habitat loss to be the most significant contributor to the hirola’s weak numbers, as the lush savannah grasslands preferred by this species have grown over with scrub forests due to the disappearance of elephants. Through the assistance of local communities, habitat restoration projects are underway to remove large tracks of invasive scrub forest and replant native grasses.

Dr. Ali and the Hirola Conservation Program are dedicated to protecting and increasing the numbers and distribution of hirola through participatory conservation, education, community involvement and international support.

The international support is where the Houston Zoo community plays such a strong role. From each guest that walks through our gate to the many departments that make up our staff, we all have made a difference.

Ali with the Hoofed Stock keepers that manage the HCP Facebook page, Memory and John.


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Thanks to TXU Energy, we’re open late again this Friday for Cool Nights. This week, we’re hosting a Pollinator Party! Learn about butterflies, bees, and bats and the important role they play in producing some of your favorite foods. With music, games, and activities, we’ve got tons of fun for the whole family.

Our Jacob's four-horned sheep are shedding their winter weight just in time for the summer heat! Hawthorne and Hemingway were treated to a makeover that relieved them of 10% of their total weight. Their wool will be used as enrichment for other animals this summer. Check out their stylish transformation in these before and after pictures. ... See MoreSee Less

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Comment on Facebook

What do you mean by "enrichment"? You gonna give the wool to the monkeys to spin and turn into clothes?

i know they must feel so much better, especially with the heat coming in!!!

Is there any chance that they might sunburn with their wool being so short now?

Looking good :) least now they can enjoy the sun instead of getting too hot under all that wool

These sheep are one of my favorite breeds of sheep. Very cute!

Aww. ♥️. Sheep sheeps!

Looking very cool!! Thanks I am sure they appreciate it!! 😀

Wow! They are beautiful

I love their names. 😍

OMG! Cute either way! Awwwwwwwwwww

Ahhh, much better!

Looking like hot stuff guys!!!!

They are beautiful!!! 😍😍

Lana Wynne, we have missed you on Fridays!

😊

Is Levi still there too? He was my favorite!

Maryalice Torres that's Tony 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

Juana Searcy lol.

TheQueen MrsAndrea Puentes

Erick Coronado

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