The Life of a Mountain Reedbuck

The Life of a Mountain Reedbuck

In 2004, AWF established the Kilimanjaro Elephant Research & Conservation Camp to serve as the base station for studying elephants in the area along the Tanzania-Kenya border. This region is part of AWF's Kilimanjaro Heartland, a conservation landscape that is home to populations of elephants who travel from Amboseli National Park in Kenya across the border to the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. However, the camp does more than simply studying elephants. We also have an experienced team of Village Game Scouts that patrol the area, keeping a watchful eye out for things like poaching and human-wildlife conflict. These dedicated individuals come from Maasai villages nearby and are both respected by their communities and feared by poachers.

Simon Ole Nasale, the Game Scout Coordinator, is a gentle man but is unyielding when it comes to preventing poachers from wiping out wildlife that shares his land. Recently, Simon was out on patrol when he discovered a rare mountain reedbuck huddled under a tree. Simon's experience in tracking wildlife led him to believe something was wrong, and after carefully approaching, he discovered that the reedbuck was suffering from a deep bullet wound. Given the nature of the wound, it is likely that the mountain reedbuck was shot by one of the local wheat farmers. With much of the reedbuck's habitat being converted into large-scale wheat farms, the animals are forced enter these farms to feed on the wheat. In turn, this creates conflict between wildlife and the farmers.

The mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) is a medium-sized, grey brown herbivore. Its elegant, slender features exemplify the grace and beauty of Africa's antelopes. It prefers habitats of grassy hills and rocky slopes, and traditionally feeds on a variety of grasses. The mountain reedbuck is called ngaisulisho in the language of the Maasai people, named for the unique whistling sound it makes when predators are near.

Simon Ole Nasale (left)- Game Scout Coordinator in Kilimanjaro Heartland - attempting to nurse a sick reedbuck back after the animal was shot.

Simon bought medicine and stayed three days with the sick reedbuck. Unfortunately, his attempts to nurse the animal back to health were futile, as the wound was too deep, and the reedbuck did not survive.

This story is a bitter reminder of the conflict that can arise when people encroach on wildlife habitat. Sadly, this species of reedbuck has been declining in the area surrounding Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro since the 1970s. Although there is little information available on the status of the species in this area, the reason for the decline is likely attributed to habitat disappearance, poaching, and shooting by farmers.

There is promise. Several mountain reedbucks have been sighted in the area, especially around the Larkarian Hills, whose rocky slopes remain untouched by development. According to the Kilimanjaro Elephant Research Camp Research Assistant Pastor Magingi, the hills are now being included as key areas for monitoring this unique species. Our dedicated game scouts like Simon are working to ensure the mountain reedbuck is not lost forever.