Rare Hoofed Mammals: Okapi, Hirola and Saiga

The Houston Zoo loves its okapi and other hoofed animals at the Zoo and are doing everything we can to protect their counterparts in the wild.   The rare hirola and Saiga described on this page can only be seen in the wild.  We are also committed to ensuring these rare animals not found in zoos receive strong support and enhancement.

Okapi Conservation Project


2015 Successes:

  • 35,000 students were reached by Okapi Conservation Project educators.
  • Okapi Conservation Project lesson plans are now part of the national curriculum in public schools near eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • 49 rangers trained.

The Houston Zoo loves its’ okapis and wants to do everything we can to protect them in the wild.

How We Help Okapi in the Wild
How You Can Help Okapi



Saiga Conservation Alliance

Saiga Male1

2016 Successes:

  • New website launched

The saiga antelope is a unique animal that inhabits the vast plains of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is a relict of the ice age fauna that included mammoths and sabre tooth cats, and it is evolutionarily distinct from other antelopes.

The Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) works across the saiga’s range, the semi-arid desert of Central Asia and Russia, to secure its future. This unique animal once numbered in the millions, but today only 40,000 survive. The saiga population crashed by 95% in fifteen years, the fastest decline ever recorded for a mammal species. Saigas are hunted for their meat and their horns, which are believed to have medicinal purposes. Recently, the saiga population has begun to increase again, thanks in large part to the efforts of SCA.

One of many solutions the SCA supports is helping women set up embroidery collectives. The new income the women receive from selling the embroidery allows them to transition from buying saiga meat to buying more expensive sheep meat. The income can also lessen a husband’s need to poach saiga to provide for his family.

How the Houston Zoo Helps the Saiga
How You Can Help the Saiga


Hirola Conservation Program


2016 Successes:

  • 400 community members attended a film night to watch films about wildlife
  • 25 rangers were trained to work in 5 areas of hirola habitat

The Hirola Conservation Program, is working hard to save a beautiful and unique antelope called a hirola. This species is endemic (only found in a small area) to northeastern Kenya and southwest Somalia, and they are critically endangered. The latest aerial survey in 2011 estimated that only 300-500 hirola are left!

This program is lead by a local Kenyan named Ali Abdullahi H. He grew up in a herding community with hirola in his back yard in Kenya and now he is committed to saving them from extinction.

Hirola At A Glance:

  • Slender, medium sized antelope that eats short grasses
  • Distinctive glands below each eye giving the appearance of four eyes
  • Now found only in the Kenya- Somali border region,
  • 40 years ago they numbered close to 10,000 but only 300-500 remain today only in the wild

Enjoy this video describing the Hirola Conservation Program:

How the Houston Zoo Helps the Hirola
How You Can Help the Hirola