Hirola Antelope (Beatragus hunteri)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925392
The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is a community-led initiative, registered in 2004, whose members represent politically and socially marginalized pastoralist communities of Northern Kenya, who are predominantly dependent on a purely livestock-based livelihood system. The NRT was established to assist communities to use biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and natural resource based enterprises as a means of improving and diversifying livelihoods. The NRT is currently working with 17 community conservancies, covering an area of more than 6,000km2 in northern and north-eastern Kenya.
Considering that the majority of Kenya’s wildlife exists predominantly in private and community conservancies and community land, its survival requires support and engagement from local communities in order to retain an ecosystem approach to conservation, allowing continued migration of wildlife through their natural range. Many communities with land suitable for conservation have no access to expertise, resources or donor agencies that are required to develop community-based conservation initiatives. Moreover, opportunities for economic growth have been hindered by insecurity and a history of ethnic rivalry in the region.
The 19,000 hectare Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy(located in Ijara district, in North-Eastern Kenya), which came under the umbrella of NRT in 2007, was developed specifically to conserve the highly endangered Hirola antelope (Beatragus hunteri).The Conservancy is owned and managed by approximately 3,500 local Somali pastoralists who inhabit the area. There is an estimated population of 150 Hirola (with a world population estimated at merely 400-600 individuals) within the conservancy area. The conservancy is abundant with other wildlife including e.g., lion, leopard, African wild dog, reticulated giraffe, lesser kudu, desert warthog, bush-buck, harvey’s duiker, buffalo, beisa oryx, topi and recently elephant have been sighted within the conservancy. Two critically endangered primates, the Tana River Red Colobus (Piliocolobus rufomitratus) and Tana Mangabey (Cerocebus galeritus), also inhabit the conservancy in riverine forest along the banks of the River.
In terms of institutional support and development, Ishaqbini conservancy is managed by a Board of 12 elected community trustees and employs 16 people including a manager, bookkeeper and 14 community scouts who are responsible for wildlife security and monitoring. Topics discussed at Board meetings include annual budgeting and local fundraising; conservancy zonation; institutional development; financial management and grazing management. Grazing management in the conservancy is crucial to the conservation of Hirola, providing a refuge for wildlife and reducing competition with livestock (with the obvious consideration of community needs of access to grazing land and water for their livestock).
Security and wildlife monitoring is provided by the Ishaqbini scout team, who have been trained in collecting standardized data on sightings of key wildlife species, wildlife mortality, human/wildlife conflict and security. In 2009, with support from NRT and the Kenya Wildlife Service, they were trained in specific Hirola monitoring skills including ageing, sexing and identifying individuals. Scouts have now been monitoring individual herds as well as gathering data on population demography in this regard. Preliminary results suggest low recruitment of juveniles/sub-adults into the population (the 6-12 month age class). This could be due to high levels of predation and possibly dispersal of sub-adults outside the conservancy area. Continued monitoring of population demography will enable Ishaqbini and NRT to better understand factors limiting population growth of Hirola.
The scouts have also played a crucial role in highlighting the poaching threat to Hirola along the Tana River, and through vigorous anti-poaching patrolling have successfully reduced the poaching threat to this species and other wildlife in the Conservancy. Nonetheless, anti-poaching operations must continue to be part of their routine work, as the looming threat is still prevalent. In fact, poaching has allegedly been carried out by members of the neighbouring Pokomo community. However, recent engagement with them has shown their keen interest in initiating their own conservancy, which bodes well for the future of the Reserve. Community outreach is thus vital towards improving wildlife security in Ishaqbini.
Project 0925392 location - Kenya, Africa