March 5, 2009

Antelope species in danger of extinction

A Swiss conservation group says one-quarter of the Earth's antelope species are threatened with extinction and nine species are considered endangered.

Unsustainable harvesting, whether for food or traditional medicine and human encroachment on their habitat are the main threats facing antelopes, said Philippe Chardonnet, co-chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's 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.

Five species of antelope are considered critically endangered -- the highest category of threat. They are the Dama Gazelle (Nanger dama), Aders' Duiker (Cephalophus adersi), the Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica), Hirola (Beatragus hunteri) and Addax (Addax nasomaculatus).

Nine species are in the next category of threat, endangered, and another nine are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The organization said, overall, populations are stable in 31 percent of antelope species and decreasing in 62 percent. The Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), a native of southern Africa, is the only antelope species with a long-term increasing trend, mainly as a result of the game ranching industry, officials said.