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Tragelaphus buxtoni

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA BOVIDAE

Scientific Name: Tragelaphus buxtoni
Species Authority: (Lydekker, 1910)
Common Name(s):
English Mountain Nyala

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Sillero-Zubiri, C.
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
Justification:
Listed as Endangered as the number of mature individuals is estimated at <2,500 and the continuing pressures from hunting and habitat loss are thought likely to result in a continuing decline of at least 20% over two generations (estimated at 18 years). Although a recent survey has indicated the possibility of a higher total population, up to 4,000 (Evangelista et al. 2007), even if this figure is confirmed by further survey work, the number of mature individuals is likely to remain below the threshold of 2,500.
History:
2007 Endangered
1996 Endangered (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
1996 Endangered
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Endemic to the highlands of Ethiopia, south-east of the Rift Valley, between 6°N and 10°N. Formerly occurred from Gara Muleta in the east to Shashamane and north Sidamo in the south, but has been eliminated from a large part of its former range. Currently, the main area of distribution is the Bale Mountains National Park and the eastern escarpments of the Bale massif. Smaller relict populations occur in Chercher (=Amhar) Mountains (Asba Tafari, Arba Guggu, Din Din), Arsi Mountains (Chilalo, Galama, Mt Kaka, Munessa), and West Bale (Somkaro-Korduro ridge) (Hillman 1988, East 1999, Malcolm and Evangelista 2005, Sillero-Zubiri in press, Atickem in litt. 2009).
Countries:
Native:
Ethiopia
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population was estimated at 7,000 to 8,000 (and perhaps up to 12,500) in the 1960s (Brown 1969), and at 2,000 to 4,000 individuals in the 1980s (Hillman 1988). Numbers have declined since then. Mountain Nyalas may be extinct in the eastern and southern extremes of their distribution, but a few may still occur in Asba Tafari and in the border between Bale and Sidamo, south of Kofele. East (1999) calculated the population at 2,650, but subsequent information indicates that this may have been an overestimate. The main population formerly occurred in and around the Gaysay grasslands at the northern end of the Bale Mountains, and its numbers have been monitored since 1983. Numbers here increased to 1,050 by the late 1980s (Hillman 1988) as a result of creation of a national park in the 1970s which provided protection from poaching and excluded cattle grazing. Woldegebriel (1997) estimated the population prior to 1990 at 1,500 to 1,900. Unfortunately, following political unrest after the end of the war in 1991, most mountain nyala habitat in northern Bale was encroached by cattle and there was extensive hunting. As a result, the Gaysay population decreased to a fraction of what it was earlier. National Park staff estimated it to be 150 to 260 by 1994 (Woldegebriel 1997). There has been some recovery since, and the Gaysay population was estimated at 550 by Refera and Bekele (2004) and Malcolm and Evangelista (2005).

In addition to Gaysay, there may be 80 to 120 mountain nyalas in other parts of Bale Mountains National Park, less than 100 in adjacent hunting areas to the north of the National Park, and 30 to 60 in Somkaro in west Bale (C. Sillero-Zubiri pers. obs.). Malcolm and Evangelista (2005) estimated as many as 500 nyala may occur in hunting blocks east of Bale. This would give a total population estimate for the Bale massif of 1,000-1,400. Small fragmented populations found in Arsi (Galama, Chilalo, Kaka and Munesa), and elsewhere (Kuni Muktar, Din Din, Arba Gugu) would total around 600 (Malcolm and Evangelista 2005). Therefore, it is likely that only 1,500 to 2,000 mountain nyalas survive throughout the range. A recent survey has indicated the total population may be higher, perhaps up to 4,000 (Evangelista et al. 2007). No nyalas are currently kept in captivity (East 1999).

Recent research has shown that the largest population currently occurs outside Bale National Park on the eastern escarpment of the Bale massif, mainly in Besemena Odobullu and Shedom Berbere (Anagaw Atickem in litt. 2009).

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Mountain Nyalas occur at elevations of 1,800-3,400 m but are most abundant from 2,400-3,200 m (Atickem in litt. 2009). They frequent the fringes of montane grasslands (2,800 to 3,100 m) dominated by Artemesia afra, Kniphofia foliosa and Hypericum spp. (Sillero-Zubiri in press). Highest densities (up to 21/km²) have been recorded in the montane grasslands of Gaysay, Bale, where there is a combination of browse and grass with woodland cover to retreat to during the day (Hillman and Hillman 1987).

The formerly large continuous blocks of suitable woodland and Afroalpine habitat have now been reduced to a series of habitat islands in a sea of cultivated fields. It seems likely that mountain nyalas have been forced into higher areas by human increase and livestock grazing, and are also found above 3,400 m in heath forest and heathlands (Erica and Phillippia spp.) and on Afroalpine grasslands (Alchemilla spp., Festuca spp.) up to 4,300 m (Sillero-Zubiri in press). In the eastern extreme of its distribution, a relict population was recorded in forests as low as 1,800 m (Bolton 1973).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threatened by illegal hunting, destruction of montane forest and heathlands, encroachment by cattle, expansion of high-altitude cultivation, roads, and harassment by dogs. Permanent occupation of suitable habitat as a result of increasing human and livestock populations is exerting tremendous pressure on nyala habitat throughout the range, with anecdotal evidence suggesting mountain nyalas actively avoid livestock (Sillero-Zubiri in press). Mountain Nyalas are extensively hunted for meat and horns, the latter used for local medicine and to make nipples for traditional milk bottles. Trophy hunting blocks in Arsi have been hunted out and concessions moved to Bale, with continued pressure by the industry for additional hunting blocks and larger quotas. Effects of current trophy-hunting programs are not well understood and current trophy hunting quotas may be unsustainable in the long-term (Sillero-Zubiri in press). Its restricted range, and fragmented populations, make it highly vulnerable to human activities and stochastic events.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Fully protected by law but enforcement is generally absent. Effective protection is limited to around 20 km² of habitat in Gaysay and around Bale Mountains N.P. headquarters. The Bale Mountains National Park harbours around half the total population of mountain nyalas. The small Kuni-Muktar Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1990 as a second protected area for mountain nyala, but by 1996 this sanctuary had suffered severely from poaching, deforestation, cultivation and gully erosion, and the species no longer occurred.

The mountain nyala, along with the Ethiopian wolf, is a key flagship species for Bale Mountains National Park and its future will be closely tied to the future of this protected area. It is also very important to spread the risk by establishing effective protection and management of mountain nyala populations elsewhere within its range. Sustainable trophy hunting in some of these areas has very high potential for generating the revenue needed to fund effective conservation of this species and the other endemics which share its habitat. It may also be advisable to establish a self-sustaining captive population in collaboration with the Ethiopian conservation authorities, as an insurance against future adversity for the wild population.

Citation: Sillero-Zubiri, C. 2008. Tragelaphus buxtoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 23 September 2014.
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