WWF UK Blog  

My close encounter with endangered antelope


Cath Lawson, our East Africa Regional Officer, recently travelled to Kenya to see how WWF, supported through Size of Wales, is helping protect a special species that is under threat. Here’s how she got on:

Most people go on safari to see the big five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. People heading to Shimba Hills National Reserve in Kenya, however, are often seeking something else.

Shimba Hills is renowned for being the only place in Kenya where you can see Roosevelt sable antelope.

Male sable antelope in Shimba Hills National ReserveMale sable antelope in Shimba Hills National Reserve. Photo: Cath Lawson / WWF-UK

In other countries the Roosevelt sable antelope is more widespread, but in Kenya they have dramatically declined and around just 70 of them survive in just one place. The Kenyan sable antelope is, if you like, the crème de la crème of the sable world!

Last year when I visited Shimba Hills it took, as you would expect, days of driving to finally see a herd of sable in the distance, through some binoculars. This year, I stumbled across a male and female sable, just a few metres from the track we were driving on, within minutes of entering the reserve!

On reflection, that wasn’t surprising. We were visiting on a very special day and it was only right that the sable made an appearance. You see, my recent visit to Shimba Hills was with colleagues from WWF-Kenya and was to attend Kenya Wildlife Service’s official launch of a national strategy for the conservation of the sable antelope, which we helped to develop.

Drummers at Kenya Wildlife Service launch event for the National Conservation and Management Strategy for Sable AntelopeDrummers at Kenya Wildlife Service launch event for the National Conservation and Management Strategy for Sable Antelope. Photo: Cath Lawson / WWF-UK

Recognising the species’ national importance, the strategy sets out five key approaches to improving the conservation status of the sable in Kenya over the next five years. These approaches include: increasing monitoring and management of the sable and its habitat; improving legalisation to enhance legal protection of Shimba Hills; boosting security and surveillance in the sable’s range, increasing the distribution of sable within Kenya; and cultivating community involvement in biodiversity conservation.

It was heartening to see people uniting to save one of Kenya’s finest national symbols. The hard work, however, is of course just beginning. With the strategy in place, the challenge is now to find the resources to implement the work. Some activities are already ongoing but there’s a still lot more to do! We will be supporting efforts to meet these challenges, and we look forward to updating you as work progresses.

What do you think about the plight of the Sable? Leave a comment on Cath’s blog below.

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