Tragelaphus imberbis


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

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

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
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 estimated to have reached at least 20% over a period of three generations (21-24 years), 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.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Lesser Kudu occupies semi-arid areas of north-eastern Africa, commonly known as the Somali-Masai Arid Zone of 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 north and 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 in press). It is extinct in Djibouti (East 1999).

The purported former occurrence of this species in Saudi Arabia (Harrison and Bates 1991) is based on two sets of horns said to have originated from Arabia and one from southern Yemen. No live animals have ever been reported from the area, and the true origin of those specimens remains in doubt.
Ethiopia; Kenya; Somalia; South Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda
Regionally extinct:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Citing various authors, East (1999) indicates 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 undercounting bias in aerial surveys, East (1999) produced a total population estimate of 118,000. 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.
Population Trend: Decreasing

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 in press). They 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, and their water requirements can largely be fulfilled from the water content of the food plants (Leuthold in press).
Systems: Terrestrial

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), Bush Bush National Park (Somalia), 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).

Bibliography [top]

East, R. 1999. African Antelope Database 1999. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

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.

Leuthold, W. In press. Tragelaphus imberbis. In: J. S. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa, Academic Press, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group 2008. Tragelaphus imberbis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 30 March 2015.
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