Several antelope species have been added to Kenya's list of endangered species, in the process calling attention to some of the challenges poorer nations have in protecting their natural resources.

Kenya has just a few dozen antelopes left from several different species, including the sable antelope, sitatunga, roan, and bongo. None of these species are considered endangered by the international community, since they are all also present in other, neighboring nations. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world's most thorough listing of species in need, identifies most of these antelope species as of "least concern."

Even the lowland bongo, a sub-species which only exists in Kenya, and which the Kenya Wildlife Service says is down to its last 100 individuals, is listed by the IUCN as just "near threatened."

Dr. Charles Musyoki, senior scientist at KWS, explains why they are concerned that they IUCN doesn't list these antelope species at higher threat levels: "This locks us out of funding from various conservation agencies and starves us of the attention needed to be created about these dying species."

Part of the problem here is that species do not pay much attention to national borders, so they may be somewhat healthy overall while suffering in a specific country. The IUCN usually regards populations as a whole, although it does often identify certain remote populations at greater risk than the same species as a whole.

The U.S. falls into this trap fairly often as well, as in its recent decisions not to protect the American jaguar in the United States, since it is more prevalent in Mexico. But that decision neglects the last few American jaguars in the States, just like the last few hundred antelopes in Kenya deserve greater protection.

Kenya also added the grevy's zebra to its endangered species list. The zebra's population has dropped to between 1,500 and 2,000 animals, 90% of which live in Kenya. It is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Story by John Platt. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in December 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008