To monitor the world's most endangered antelope, San Diego Zoo have sponsored motion-sensor cameras that can send real-time images to rangers, management, vets and scientists direct from the Ishaqbini Hirola Sanctuary.
It is around 400 kilometers from NRT's central HQ, and the same distance from Kenya's capital. Temperatures at midday can reach over 40 degrees celsius. It's off grid, and off the beaten track - but the Ishaqbini Community Hirola Sanctuary continues to be the single most important stronghold of the critically endangered hirola antelope, and the only place in the world where numbers of hirola are increasing.
Established in 2012 by the Ishaqbini community, it became the first community-run sanctuary in east Africa set up specifically for the conservation of an endangered species. By the end of 2016, the hirola population in the sanctuary had more than doubled; from a starter population of just 48 to over 110 individuals. However, poor rains for two consecutive seasons spelled crisis for Ishaqbini in late 2016 with the worst drought in living memory, resulting in the deaths of giraffe, buffalo, lesser kudu, and warthog. In November 2016, the Tusk Trust and San Diego Zoo came to the rescue with funds for an emergency drought response, but despite everyone's best efforts some hirola in the sanctuary also died.
Preventing any more deaths is of highest priority for the Ishaqbini team, and while the October/November 2017 rains have now blessed much of northern Kenya, continual monitoring is vital. Ishaqbini's remote location means visits by vets and scientists are rare, so with support from San Diego Zoo, motion-sensor cameras have been established throughout the sanctuary. The cameras send real-time photos to Ishaqbini management, NRT's wildlife department, and vets from San Diego Zoo, enabling experts to regularly look over the hirola's body condition, and support quick preventative action against disease or effects of drought.
The cameras are also picking up a wide variety of other animals at the Sanctuary - and we've set up a dedicated web page to share a selection of the shots twice a month.