Western Derby Eland
WESTERN DERBY ELAND
Habitat loss and hunting means there are thought to be less than 150 of the largest antelope in the world remaining in the wild, the Critically Endangered Western Derby eland.
Knowsley Safari’s heritage is closely linked with the Western Derby Eland. On an expedition for the 13th Earl of Derby, British zoologist Dr John Edward Gray provided the first scientific description this iconic west African antelope. In Gray’s day, the species would have been found throughout west Africa, but today confirmed presence is limited to Niokolo-Kobo National Park, Senegal. Knowsley Safari is owned by the 19th Earl of Derby, who continues his ancestor’s passion for wildlife by extensive work to save this species from extinction.
The complexity of conserving a species so close to extinction results in a diverse array of conservation actions being required. Knowsley contributed to the development of a conservation strategy in 2013 that allowed objectives to be clearly defined.
Protecting the remaining wild population of Western Derby eland is an important facet to the conservation of the species. Currently very little is known about the population size and distribution within the park, so it is impossible to formulate concrete conservation actions and targets. Therefore, in 2019 a project has been developed to undertake intensive surveys for Western Derby eland and other key mammal species in the national park. Funding from Knowsley will allow the extensive deployment of camera traps to make accurate population estimates. It will then be possible to use the new information to update conservation strategies and draw up long term monitoring protocols.
Captive breeding is a crucial element for the conservation of Western Derby eland, and successful breeding has been undertaken in two reserves in Senegal for around 20 years. There is now a semi-captive population of more than 100 Western Derby eland who have been carefully managed for genetic diversity and studied to learn more about the ecology and behaviour of the illusive species. Our conservation team have regularly worked out in the Senegalese reserves to help with the population management, identifying new calves during breeding season and undertaking public engagement work to raise awareness of the plight of Western Derby eland. The captive breeding programme can be a source of individuals for reintroduction projects in the future.