Tragelaphus imberbis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Tragelaphus imberbis
Species Authority: (Blyth, 1869)
Common Name(s):
English Lesser Kudu
French Petit koudou

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-05-31
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M.
Total numbers are estimated to number at least 118,000, about 33% of them in protected areas. Numbers are considered to be in decline in much of the range, as a result of hunting, overgrazing, and outbreaks of rinderpest. In some other areas, bush encroachment has increased the amount of suitable habitat, and local range expansion and population increases have been reported. Nevertheless, the level of decline is suspected to have reached at least 20% over a period of 13 years (three generations), so approaching the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion A2cde. The Lesser Kudu will probably persist in the arid scrublands of northeastern Africa, as long as human and livestock densities remain relatively low in extensive parts of its range such as northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. It nevertheless faces a continuing, long-term population decline as meat hunting and pastoralism increase within its remaining range. Its status may eventually decline to threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Lesser Kudu occupies semi-arid areas of north-eastern Africa, commonly known as the Somali-Masai Arid Zone, in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. Its range extends from ca 12°N in the Awash area of Ethiopia southward through southern Ethiopia, much of Somalia except the northeast (i.e., east of 46°E and north of 08°N), most of Kenya except the southwest, extreme southeast Sudan, extreme northeast Uganda to northeast and central Tanzania (Leuthold 2013). It is probably extinct in Djibouti.

Two records of this species in Arabia (Harrison and Bates 1991) are based on sets of horns, one obtained in Saudi Arabia and the other in Yemen. No live animals have ever been reported from the region, there is no local word for the species, which is highly distinctive, and the import of horns and of live animals is common in the region.
Countries occurrence:
Ethiopia; Kenya; Somalia; South Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda
Possibly extinct:
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1740
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Citing various authors, East (1999) indicated that population estimates based on recent aerial surveys are available for considerable areas of the Lesser Kudu’s range, but aerial surveys substantially underestimate this species’ true numbers. In addition, its populations are unknown in the remainder of its range. The sum of available estimates, about 22,000, is therefore probably a significant underestimate of the species’ actual total numbers. Correcting for under-counting bias in aerial surveys, East (1999) produced a total population estimate of 118,000. East (1999) suggests local densities of 0.5-3/km². Despite the species’ ability to persist in the face of uncontrolled meat hunting, its numbers are probably in gradual decline over extensive areas of its range as human settlement expands. There are however reports from some sites of increasing numbers as bush expands following extirpation of elephants.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:80000-100000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Lesser Kudu is closely associated with Acacia-Commiphora thornbush in semi-arid areas of north-eastern Africa; it generally avoids open spaces and long grass (East 1999, Leuthold 2013). They are largely confined to lowland areas up to 1,200 m (Stewart and Stewart 1963) but have been recorded at about 1,740 m near Mt Kilimanjaro (Grimshaw et al. 1995). The Lesser Kudu is primarily a browser, consuming mainly leaves of trees, shrubs and herbs (Leuthold 2013).
Generation Length (years):4.3

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Lesser Kudu are subject to meat hunting and trophy hunting for skins or horns (Leuthold 2013). Funaioli and Simonetta (1966) mention up to 20,000 skins having been sold in a single year in Somalia, with an average of 11,000 per year between 1952 and 1963, almost all as a result of poaching.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Its shyness and preference for thick cover enable it to withstand considerable hunting pressure, e.g., it is relatively plentiful throughout the Ogaden region wherever there is sufficient dense bush, despite widespread, uncontrolled hunting by local people (East 1999). On the other hand, its susceptibility to rinderpest resulted in a substantial decrease in its numbers in eastern regions of Kenya during the mid-1990s. These populations can be expected to recover following the subsidence of this rinderpest outbreak. There are relatively few parts of the Lesser Kudu’s range where protection against poaching reaches moderate levels or better, and eradication of rinderpest from cattle would be a major step towards reducing current pressures on its populations (East 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: About one-third of the estimated total population occurs in protected areas. Important populations occur in protected areas such as Awash, Omo and Mago National Parks (Ethiopia), Tsavo National Park (Kenya) and Ruaha National Park and adjoining game reserves (Tanzania), but it occurs in larger numbers outside protected areas (East 1999).

The Lesser Kudu’s long-term survival prospects would be enhanced by improved protection and management of the relatively few protected areas which support substantial populations. In addition, its value as a trophy animal gives the species high potential for increased revenue generation in the extensive bushlands where it still occurs in good numbers outside national parks and equivalent reserves (East 1999).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):31-40
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.1. Nomadic grazing
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 5 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.2. War, civil unrest & military exercises
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Causing/Could cause fluctuations ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 5 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.5. Viral/prion-induced diseases -> 8.5.2. Named species
♦ timing:Past, Likely to Return ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Causing/Could cause fluctuations ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

East, R. (Compiler). 1999. African Antelope Database 1998. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Funaioli, U. and Simonetta, A.M. 1966. The mammalian fauna of the Somalia Republic: Status and conservation problems. Monitore Zoologico Italiano, Supplemento: 285-347.

Grimshaw, J. M., Cordeiro, N. J. and Foley, C. A. H. 1995. The mammals of Kilimanjaro. Journal of the East Africa Natural History Society 84: 105-139.

Harrison, D.L. and Bates, P.J.J. 1991. The Mammals of Arabia. Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, UK.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Leuthold, W. 2013. Tragelaphus imberbis. In: J. S. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa. VI. Pigs, Hippopotamuses, Chevrotain, Giraffes, Deer, and Bovids, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK.

Stewart, D.R.M. and Stewart, J. 1963. The distribution of some large mammals in Kenya. Journal of the East Africa Natural History Society 24(3): 1-52.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2016. Tragelaphus imberbis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22053A50196563. . Downloaded on 28 April 2017.
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