Rare Species Conservatory Foundaiton

Dr. Richard Estes RSCF supports the ongoing research of board member Richard Estes, Ph.D. Dr. Estes has devoted his life to the study and conservation of African hoofed mammals, spending countless hours in the Ngorongoro Crater studying, tracking and censusing migratory antelope, with special emphasis on wildebeest. Below you will find excerpts from his research. Click the links for complete articles.

Dr. Estes was recently appointed Lifetime Member Emeritus to the IUCN Species Survival Commission, in recognition of chairmanship of the Antelope Specialist Group from 1978-2004. In addition to his pivotal role in the bongo antelope conservation program, Estes is actively involved in the conservation of the giant sable antelope, through RSCF and ASG support of an Angolan ecologist who recently obtained photographic proof that the species survives in the Cangandala National Park. In 2009, Estes assisted in an ambitious translocation effort for the giant sable in Angola and provided technical support, outreach and essential documentation for the project. He again served as Resident Naturalist in Kenya's Maasai Mara Reserve, Governors Camp, during 201 and provided guide and guard training for wildlife teams from Mozambique, Tanzania (Gremeti Reserve), and South Africa. He has recently completed a comprehensive treatise on wildebeest, drawing upon decades of research and historical population data compiled since 1967. During his regular field expeditions throughout the year, Estes monitors wildebeest, elephant and ungulate populations while offering outreach and interpretive services to park personnel and visitors.

Click here for Dr. Estes 2009 article on endocrine patterns in pregnant wildebeest.

NEWS OF NOTE: Dr. Estes' new book, The Gnus World, will be published in April of 2014. In it, Dr. Estes refers to the unique vocalizations of wildebeest during breeding season. Click the links below to hear two recordings of these amazing sounds.

"The Big Hum"

Individual Calls

Can it be Saved?

The goals for global conservation as defined in The IUCN/WWF World Conservation Strategy are:

  • To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems

  • To preserve genetic diversity

  • To ensure sustainable utilization of species ecosystems
Africa's human population is now over half-a-billion people, having doubled since 1970. At current rates of increase of 2.5 to 3.5% it will redouble every 20-30 years. What hope is there that any considerable portion of the continent's matchless fauna and flora can survive in this rising sea of humanity? That is the central question this course will attempt to answer.


Wildebeest in the Serengeti Ecosystem

Why are there so many wildebeest? What makes this antelope the keystone species of the Serengeti ecosystem?

The short answer is that the wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) is specialized for precisely the climatic and ecological conditions that distinguish the Serengeti arid savanna: extensive short grasslands that are highly productive during the rainy season, and taller grasslands in the woodland zone in the west and northern part of the ecosystem where wildebeest can seek green pastures and water during the long dry season.

Wildebeest concentrate by the thousands and even hundreds of thousands on the Serengeti grasslands because the grasses they feed on cover the ground and enable the animals to feed close together. This is particularly true of the short-grass plains, where over 90 percent of the ground is carpeted by herbage. These are the pastures the wildebeest prefers, which it is better equipped to crop and process than other associated grazers, having flexible lips, a broad muzzle, and wide row of incisor teeth that enable it to take big bites of short grass.

Socio-economic Importance

Africa is home to more large mammals than all other continents combined. It is especially rich in hollow-horned ruminants (family Bovidae), with 75 species out of a world total of 120 species. Seventy-two of the African bovids are antelopes. Their potential as a source of food is tremendous, yet equaled or even surpassed by the African buffalo and several species of non-ruminant ungulates, notably the hippopotamus, warthog, common zebra, and until very recently, the elephant.

My own primary interest in these animals lies in research on the socio-ecology of free-ranging African antelopes, and in the application of research to the conservation of African wildlife and ecosystems. The Antelope Specialist Group (ASG) of the Species Survival Commission, one of the commissions of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, is involved in a country-by-country survey of the antelopes, and in the preparation of regional conservation action plans. The concern of the ASG (of which the writer is Chairman) with the economic value of wildlife stems from the realization that wildlife conservation must yield tangible benefits to win popular support for keeping land reserved for wild animals.