Here is the 4th trimester report:
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
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.
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.
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.
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
The remaining photographs showed the usual customers, such as
duikers, bushbucks and warthogs, and for last a surprising newcomer
– a white-headed vulture.