Abdullahi Hussein Ali is a Kenyan National interested in wildlife ecology and conservation of arid ecosystem particularly in the biodiversity rich horn of Africa region. His current work is focusing on the ecology and conservation of the globally endangered hirola antelope (Beatragus hunteri) in northeastern Kenya. This unique antelope is restricted to the Kenya-Somalia border and it is the world’s most endangered antelope. Ali grew up in a small village on the outskirts of Garissa town; a city located nearly 400 KM northeast of the capital Nairobi, Kenya. His rural home coincides with the geographic range of the hirola antelope and over the years Ali watched the dwindling of the species; today he is endeavoring to save them from extinction.
Ali received his master’s degree in conservation biology (2010) and his bachelor’s degree in wildlife management (2005), both from the University of Nairobi. Ali is now a third-year doctoral student in the Program in Ecology (PIE) at the University of Wyoming and an EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) Fellow, sponsored by the Zoological Society of London. Since 2005, Ali has been working with National Museums of Kenya as field ecologist, much of his work focused on dryland biodiversity conservation in northeastern Kenya.
His PhD dissertation is focusing on hirola population dynamics, habitat use, and the effects of land-use change for hirola. These are knowledge gaps that have been consistently identified as research priorities for future hirola conservation. Ali and his team employ GPS telemetry using Vectronics GPS plus collars, mark-resight and sight-resight analyses to gather unprecedented information on hirola demography and movement. In addition, they are analysing multi-temporal remotely-sensed imagery to determine the collective impacts of overgrazing, fire suppression, and elephant reductions on shrub encroachment in the area.
Although hirola have never been common, they have dwindled in number from roughly 10,000 in 1970 to somewhere around 300-500 today. The reasons for this decline (and equally the reasons preventing contemporary recovery) are mysterious; formal research in this geographic area has been logistically difficult given political unrest and tribalism. However, Ali and his team suspect that a combination of habitat loss; competition with livestock; predation; disease; and drought have been responsible for historic declines while predation and range degradation are combining to suppress contemporary recovery. Results from his research will be used to guide management strategies through the Hirola Management Committee of the Kenya Wildlife Service.