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Only one out of 91 antelope species is on the rise

The springbok is the only antelope species whose population is on the rise, according to a new review by the Red List for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, over a quarter of the antelopes, 25 species out of 91, are considered threatened with extinction.

“Unsustainable harvesting, whether for food or traditional medicine, and human encroachment on their habitat are the main threats facing antelopes,” says Dr Philippe Chardonnet, Co-Chair of the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group. “Most antelopes are found in developing countries which is why it’s critically important that we collaborate with local communities there since it is in their own interest to help preserve these animals.”

The critically endangered Hirola. Photo by Tim Wacher.

The review found that five antelope species are Critically Endangered: the Dama Gazelle , Aders’ Duiker , the Saiga Antelope, the Addax, and the Hirola.

The little-known Hirola is considered possibly the most endangered antelope in Africa. Since 1980 its populations have dropped an astounding 85-90 percent. The Hirola is one of the focal mammals chosen by EDGE for conservation attention. Currently EDGE has a local fellow studying the dwindling populations.

Worse off even than the Hirola is the Scimitar Horned Oryx which is extinct in the wild. There are currently efforts to reintroduce the oryx to its former ranges. Fortunately for recovery efforts, the animal is plentiful in captivity with estimates of over five thousand individuals around the world.

The statement found that if subspecies are included then the findings are even gloomier. Five subspecies are currently considered Critically Endangered: the mountain bongo, the giant sable antelope, the western giant eland, the tora hartebeest, and Congo’s upemba lechwe.

In the new IUCN report the Springbok is the only antelope species with a rising population. Photo by Pascal Mesochina.

The statement from the ICUN points out that not all antelopes are in danger. India currently has a good track record with its four native species of antelope with only one considered threatened.
“Despite the pressure of living alongside 1.2 billion people, antelopes are doing well in India,” says Dr David Mallon, Co-Chair of the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group. “It is no coincidence that there is very little tradition of hunting in India and gun ownership is rare.”

While the springbok is the only antelope found to be on the rise, 31 percent of the antelopes’ populations remain stable. 62 percent have a downward trajectory, while not enough data is available for the remaining six percent.

Perhaps ironically, the springbok’s success is mostly due to the game-ranching industry, rather than natural improvement in the wild. They are widely desired for their venison.

Three species of antelope have gone extinct in the last two hundred years: Queen of Sheba’s gazelle, Saudi gazelle (both from the Middle East), and the bluebuck which once inhabited the tip of South Africa.

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