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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This is Pumpkin. No not the pumpkins, the orangutan. Well yes, those are pumpkins too, but our orangutan is also named Pumpkin. Take a minute and enjoy Pumpkin(s). ... See MoreSee Less



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He ❤️❤️❤️ his kale. But some days you get to splurge and eat your dessert, pumpkin pie spiced popcorn, before your vegetables🥗🥕🥔

He takes the good stuff out & pours the leftovers in his mouth. Maybe Pumpkin prefers to drink his meals! Pumpkin says, “Smoothies, please!”😄❤️

It's ok Pumpkin. I feel the same way about kale. 👎

I worked with Pumpkin when he was younger.

Kenna Halloween orangutans

Charles David looks like we need another zoo trip! We never saw pumpkin

I just love the orangutans!! Is Bubba still there??

I love ❤️ to watch them!

Joseph Vasquez 😍😍😍😍😍❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I need to visit pumpkin.

So glad he is doing well and in a great place!!

Sweets for the sweetest orangutan ever! Love him

Jane Carolyn Sablich something you would thoroughly enjoy watching

He goes for the popcorn first !!! Great little video. Thank you ! :-D

Mayra Núñez we have to go!!!

Cooper Hale I hope Ned school is treating you well ❣️

Dalton Kuntschik this is my friend who came up to the window!!! 😍

Maria Bergan a little orangutan entertainment for you 🙂

Pumpkin says no to kale.

We got to see him last week!

Alex Garcia look how adorable he is!! 😍😍😍

Nothing at the bottom

He's beautiful!

Pumpkin is so handsome!

Super cute!

Great enrichment!

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Happy Friday the 13! Calling all little ghosts and goblins - Zoo Boo has begun! ... See MoreSee Less


Happy Friday the 13! Calling all little ghosts and goblins - Zoo Boo has begun!


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Went today! It was fun but super hot. My heart sank every time I saw a child in full costume long sleeved and pants all sweaty and red was 92 degrees.

We had a lot of fun today. XANDER, 1, painted his pumpkin, brushed the goats and loved the Giraffes and Elephants. It's a great event.

Why is the splash pad closed? It's ridiculously hot today.

Kelli!!! We have to go!!!

we were thinking of taking them to a Halloween even in bridgeland it's @ 10 am

Meg Elizabeth from a quick glance i thought these boys were yours 😂😂😂

So cute how you have pumpkin patches in the US - We have a few now in the UK but the US ones are EPIC!

Kimberly Olson we should dress up and go!

Kimberly Martinez look at this! It is to cute!😀

Susan Hendrix Curry look at how cute this setup is!

Michael Mitchell this is what I want to take them to at the zoo

Alfredo Vargas i wanna take the kids!!!

The little ones look like they're having a wonderful time :-).

Cristina Obregon are you busy Saturday? We should take the kids!

Jacques when are we going?

Is this wer the kids dress up

Love it!!!!

Kacie Nichols we need to go

Amanda Myers Jessica Longoria omg so cute we should go!!!

Melissa Mar vamos mañana

Kong Suarez Houston zoo

Esperanza Barriga Adriana Campos this is cute!

Maria Marcos Sha-keta Smith Emily Diane Montelongo for our baby gio!!!! :)

Colochita Vasquez this cute

Heleana Hohl I want to go

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