Conservation status

Populations of all species have suffered declines in recent years, and their ranges have been reduced, largely as a result of habitat loss (especially due to agriculture and competition from domestic stock), human disturbance, hunting, and poaching. Droughts and disease have also seriously affected some species. Wetland-dependent species have been affected by damming and draining; for example, after the damming of the Kafue River for a hydroelectric scheme in 1978, the population of the Kafue lechwe (Kobus leche kafuensis), originally about 94,000, was halved. As a result of these factors, the survival of all species is of concern.

The bluebuck is the first historically recorded African mammal to become extinct. It may have been declining from natural causes since the Pleistocene and its grazing habitat may have been adversely affected by the introduction of domestic sheep from about A.D. 400. In the eighteenth century, the first European settlers found it relatively uncommon, occurring only in a small coastal area of the southwestern Cape. It was quickly driven to extinction by hunting and settlement pressure, and was last recorded in 1799-1800.

Two races of living species have also become extinct recently. Roberts' lechwe (Kobus leche robertsi) occurred in northwestern Zambia, while the bubal hartebeest (Alcelaphus b. buselaphus) was formerly widespread in North Africa, but died out in the late 1920s.

The scimitar-horned oryx once ranged through much of the Sahelian grassland and scrubland on the northern and southern fringes of the Sahara. There have been no sightings in the wild since the late 1980s, and it is listed as Extinct in the Wild. It is a victim of habitat loss from overgrazing, droughts, warfare, hunting, and competition with domestic cattle. Worldwide, at least 1,250 are kept in zoos and private facilities, and more than 2,000 are on ranches in Texas. It is the second most common antelope in captivity. Since 1985, reintroductions have been made to national parks in Tunisia, Morocco, and Senegal.

Two species and one race are Critically Endangered. The addax is now reduced to about 250 individuals in the wild. Hunter's hartebeest had declined to about 300 individuals in 1995; apparently, only one exists in captivity. Competition with domestic cattle played a large role in its decline, although severe drought and poaching are also factors. The giant sable (Hippotragus niger variant) of northern Angola has an uncertain future.

The Endangered Arabian oryx has been saved from extinction by captive breeding in zoos. The red hartebeest, formerly abundant and widespread throughout much of Africa, has suffered a great reduction in range and numbers from hunting, habitat modification, and competition from cattle. The subspecies swaynei and tora, formerly occurring

Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) males in territorial dispute. (Photo by K & K Ammann. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) grazing in South Africa. (Photo by Dr. Eckart Pott. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

from Egypt to Somalia, are Endangered. Much of their remaining range in Sudan and Ethiopia was devastated by drought in the 1980s and few are thought to survive. Also Endangered is the western mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvoru-fula adamauae), confined to Cameroon and Nigeria.

The five Vulnerable races include the bontebok, the black-faced impala, and the korrigum (Damaliscus lunatus korrigum), found from Senegal to Cameroon. Two races of the lechwe are Vulnerable: the black lechwe (K. l. smithemani) of northeastern Zambia and the Kafue lechwe (K. l. kafuensis) of the Kafue Flats in southern Zambia.

In addition, 18 species are classed as Lower Risk/ Conservation Dependent, and the Nile lechwe as Lower Risk/Near Threatened.

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