March 5, 2009

One Quarter Of Global Antelope Population Endangered

The authoritative index of endangered animal life - the IUCN Red List - has listed more than 25 percent of the world's 91 known antelope species as at risk of becoming extinct.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature said several antelope species are now at greater risk since the last comprehensive assessment in 1996.

"Unsustainable harvesting -- whether for food or traditional medicine -- and human encroachment on their habitat are the main threats facing antelopes," said Philippe Chardonnet, director of the International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife.

The five species which are facing the greatest threat are the dama gazelle, Aders' duiker, the saiga antelope, hirola, and addax.

Scientists are also trying to reintroduce the scimitar-horned oryx to the wild, after it died off.

The report noted that the populations of the dama gazelle and addax are both tiny remnants compared to years past.

The IUCN said this highlights the dire situation for wildlife in the Sahelo-Saharan region, a vast expanse of desert and savannah in northern Africa.

However, some areas densely populated by humans are still maintaining healthy levels of antelope species thanks in part to low levels of gun ownership.

For example, India boasts four species of antelope of which only one is classified as facing extinction.

"Despite the pressure of living alongside 1.2 billion people, antelopes are doing well in India," says Dr David Mallon, co-chair, with Chardonnet, 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."

The study found that the springbok, a native of southern Africa, is the only antelope species whose numbers have increased over the long term.


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