Oribi Working Group
© Andre Rossouw
To promote the survival of oribis in South Africa
The oribi, Ourebia ourebi, is a highly specialised antelope inhabiting African temperate grasslands. In South Africa, their numbers have declined sharply in recent years, and they now exist with the bulk of oribi occurring on privately-owned land, as well as in a few formally protected areas where they may resist the impact of mankind’s activities. South Africa’s Red Data Book for Mammals (2004) classifies the oribi as “Endangered”, due to its rapid decline in recent years, caused primarily by habitat destruction and continued persecution by man.
In 1981 a random postal questionnaire survey of antelope on private land in KwaZulu-Natal was conducted. The results showed that oribi had disappeared from 23% of the farms where they had previously occurred, which, in addition to the now fragmented distribution of oribi due to the considerable increase in land-use such as afforestation, was cause for concern. A follow-up survey in 1998 by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) to assess the status of oribi on the same 86 farms involved in the 1981 survey gave more alarming results. On 31% of the farms that had Oribi in 1981 oribi numbers had decreased, and on 25% the oribi had gone extinct. The follow-up survey showed an overall downward trend in oribi numbers on private land, and the results suggested that this antelope could now be one of South Africa’s most threatened.
The major threats to this species have been identified as follows:
Habitat destruction (loss and fragmentation) - Grasslands are lost to commercial forestry activities, intensive commercial farming, grassland degradation due to overstocking, poor use of fire, erosion and mining. The oribi is a grassland specialist and cannot survive elsewhere. The loss of grasslands on flat to undulating terrain is thus a very real threat to the survival of the antelope.
Over-utilisation due to illegal hunting - The hunting of oribi with dogs is a serious threat to the survival of the species. This method of hunting has led to the demise of many localised Oribi populations in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and the threat continues unabated. Trapping of the animals with snares also poses a severe threat to the oribi while some landowners allow the sport hunting of the Oribi at unsustainable levels.
Inappropriate management - In many areas where oribi populations are present, current farm management practices (e.g. fences, poor burning practices, poor veld management, domestic dogs) do not allow oribi to coexist.
Poor law enforcement – South Africa currently has exceptionally advanced environmental legislation. However, the enforcement of this legislation has been poor, and continues to affect grassland-dependent species.
Lack of Awareness - The lack of awareness of the status of oribi and the threats facing this antelope is currently a significant threat to this species.
With the continued erosion of this species’ grassland habitat, and the continual pressure on fragmented populations by illegal and unsustained dog hunting, has shown the die need for concerted efforts to conserve this species. More than a third of KwaZulu-Natal’s oribi population occurs in groups of less then 5 animals, mostly isolated from other groups.
Because the current situation of the Oribi in south Africa is so precarious, an Oribi Working Group has been established within the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). The Group's mission is to promote the long-term survival of oribi in their natural grasslands habitat through initiating and coordinating Provincial conservation programmes. These include: education and awareness, habitat conservation, research and monitoring, population management and forming partnerships with stakeholders.
Raise the profile of oribi by informing and creating awareness amongst target groups in order to gain support for oribi conservation.
Ensure sustainable oribi populations by formulating best management practices based on appropriate information, and passing this on to landowners with oribi.
Encourage and support relevant scientific research on Oribi ecological requirements, and ensure biological data (including survey data) are stored and accessible to all stakeholders.
Improve management and security of existing Protected Areas and privately-owned farms with suitable oribi habitat.
Continue the Oribi Custodianship Programme, giving incentive-based recognition for landowners contributing to oribi conservation.
Facilitate the translocation of oribi from doomed populations to viable areas.
Ensure that all landowners and managers with oribi are aware of the relevant legislation regarding poaching and land transformation.
245 Landowners throughout South Africa participated in an oribi survey during September 2005, with a total of 2,517 Oribi being counted, with the majority of these (2,149 Oribi) occurring within KwaZulu-Natal. Significantly smaller populations were counted in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. Only 20 properties had populations of Oribi greater than 20 animals, with only 3 populations being larger than 100 animals. 97 landowners reported populations on their properties with less than 5 animals, representing 41% of the returns during the survey. Compared to previous surveys, the good news is that this proportion is declining. The 2001 Oribi survey indicated that 110 properties (out of a total of 245, 45%) had 5 or less animals, while in 2003 this number was 102 properties (out of 220 returns, 46%), and in 2004 it was 98 properties (out of 209 returns, 47%).
WAZA Conservation Project 05026 is operated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust's (EWT) Oribi Working Group, supported by the National Zoo, Pretoria, the Johannesburg Zoo, NCT Forestry Cooperative, Wildlands Conservation Trust and aQuelle Karkloof Classic MTB marathon, in cooperation with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Mpumalanga Parks Board, NCT Forestry Cooperative, Mondi Shanduka / Business Paper, Sappi Forests, Msinsi Holdings, South African Sugar Association, Avian Demography Unit (Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts), and many farmers in KZN, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.
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© Andre Rossouw