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Giant Sable

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Once feared extinct, Angolan sable wins new hope for survival. The Angola Field Group works at Cangandala National Park and we will give updates on what’s happening with Angola’s national symbol, the Palanca Negra Gigante or Giant Sable. Pedro Vaz Pinto rediscovered the Palanca Negra Gigante after Angola’s 30 decades of civil war and heads up the Conservation Program trying to protect this animal which is on the list of the world’s critically endangered animals. Pedro is the Environmental Advisor for the Catholic University Centre for Scientific Studies and Research

Here is the 4th trimester report:

2010 wouldn’t end before we received more good news. In late October, one of the two females that looked very pregnant in September (Luisa – nº12) started behaving differently than usual, much more wary and nervous (she used to be one of the most relaxed females), and abandoning the herd often. These we immediately interpreted as probable signs of calving. And because Luisa is one of the females carrying a VHF collar, we were able to track her down occasionally, when she was away from the herd, and not surprisingly her signal led us to the thickest clump of forest inside the sanctuary.

We decided it was best not to disturb her then, so we had to wait a few more weeks, till mid-December, to confirm and see the second calf born in Cangandala.

So far it wasn’t possible to determine the sex, as the calf is very small and the vegetation is now too lush too allow us reasonable observations. Until the sex becomes obvious we decided to treat it as a she – positive thinking! In several photos we can see her standing next to her proud and protective mother and older half-brother.

Not only the older calf is healthy and developing fast, but somewhat surprisingly, the seriously limping female made an impressive recovery. She is still limping, but she put on some weight, the coat looked shinier than a couple months earlier, and she seems better accepted within the herd. When in September she appeared to be in a desperate condition. Possibly the recovery is simply due to the change of season, with more and better quality of food available to the animals these days, and this affecting primarily the injured female, but in any case it was a bit of a relief. As for the bull, he also looks as strong and healthy as ever.

On a less positive note, the female that disappeared in July is still missing, and we must face that she is probably a casualty on our breeding program. She either managed to crawl under the fence, or more likely, she died discretely. The fact that she was the oldest female in the herd can’t also be seen as encouraging… We’ll keep an eye open for her, but until proven otherwise we’re down to eight potentially breeding females.

As for the calving success, and in spite of the joy of facing the second newborn, it was disappointing not to have had more calves in the sanctuary in 2010. Females that at one point seemed to show pregnancy signs ended up not delivering the goods. All in all and concluded the first year, we were left with a bitter-sweet taste… there was breeding but below expectations. Or maybe we set the standards too high, as a first year of breeding of wild antelopes held in semi-captivity is always risky and unpredictable. Anyway, we are focusing in the new year, and now that they are fully adapted, the animals should have a much better breeding in 2012.

We have now established an ambitious plan for 2011, which includes building a third enclosure where all the hybrids could temporarily be relocated to, and then bring more sable, females and males, from Luando, so that we can establish at least two breeding herds in Cangandala. Still early days, as the activities are still being discussed among the various stakeholders. In any case, 2011 will probably witness a lot of action and constitute another landmark for the species’ conservation.

The trap cameras in Cangandala are still located in natural salt licks, both inside the larger enclosure (Sanctuary 2 – where we have the hybrid herd) and outside the fences, where we know to have roan but need to keep an eye for any surprise.

Well, the record from the last trimester gave us some nice photographic sequences, but these simply confirmed what we already knew. In the referred enclosure we only found hybrids, in a total of ten individuals (Photos 31 – 44). These include one dominant bull (Photos 31, 38, 39) and the two young males born in 2009 and 2010 (Photos 34, 37, 40, 43); the rest are females of different ages, and two of them carry VHF collars (Photos 32, 33).

We still can’t say who is the father of the younger calf and why he looks so sable-ish, but it is really interesting to note the contrast with the other young male as the later looks very roan-ish indeed! Surely sooner or later our study on the genetics, will shed some light on this subject. At least now we are pretty sure that we have a hybrid herd inside the enclosure that totals probably ten animals (maybe up to eleven or twelve maximum), and we still couldn’t find any evidence of something else, like a roan bull. This is important data to assist us in the planning to sort out the problem later this year.

Outside the enclosures we also only obtained photos of roan, as this roan bull sharing a salt lick with a bushbuck (Photo 30). We still have no evidence of hybrids or sable outside the fences. It really looks like somehow we managed to fully and perfectly separate and fence-off the three "species" in Cangandala! The pure sable in sanctuary 1, the robles in Sanctuary 2 and the roan outside. Truly amazing indeed…

The remaining photographs showed the usual customers, such as duikers, bushbucks and warthogs, and for last a surprising newcomer – a white-headed vulture.

• Finding Jimmy •
• Bardot and Elephant Culling •
• Rhino in the bathroom •
• The greatest threat Part 1 •
• The greatest threat Part 2 •
• Rhino Wars •
• You cannot eat money •
• Giant Sable •
• Why are cows not endangered? •
• Wildlife in Zambabwe •
• Hunt elephant in the Kruger •
• Where is the Ethos? •
• The Palanca First Trimester •
• Unwelcome strangers •
• Palanca Report 1st Trimester 2014 •

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