The South African Sable Antelope Project
© Peter Dollinger
To breed and reintroduce sable antelopes to supplement stocks in South Africa
The sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) occurs in twelve countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally it is rated as "lower risk - conservation dependent", the main threats being habitat loss and hunting. The Angolan sable antelope (Hippotragus niger variani) is critically endangered. In southern Africa, sable antelopes have been eliminated from the major part of their range in Mozambique, and they are rare in Namibia and Swaziland. In South Africa, sable antelopes were widespread in the bushveld area of the former Transvaal. In the 1940s it was estimated that there were over 36,000 sable antelopes in the lowveld outside the Kruger National Park. Today there are only 400 sable antelopes left in the Kruger National Park! Sable antelopes therefore remain a high conservation priority.
The exact reason for the decline of the sable antelope in certain conservation areas is not entirely understood, but any stress factor for whatever reason, could result in disease of one sort or another. A theileria preliminary named Theileria sable has recently been implicated in causing mortalities in sable antelopes on ranches in South Africa.
Since 2002, BACK TO AFRICA, an affiliate member of WAZA, has imported a total of ten rare sable antelopes from European zoos for release into the Graspan conservation area near Kimberley. These majestic animals have been generously donated from the following WAZA member institutions:
Until spring 2005, a total of seven calves have been born under African skies.
Graspan is a South African National Parks (SANParks) special species breeding facility. The SANParks has also a roan antelope breeding project at Graspan, some of which emanated from the White Oak Conservation Centre in Florida, USA, and there is also a quagga breeding project. This is a unique example of co-operation between zoological institutions that are breeding animals for conservation projects in Africa.
The objective of the project was to start a breeding herd, the offspring of which will be used to restock various parks in South Africa, such as Mapungubwe, where numbers of this species have dwindled.
Two males from this project have been moved to the National Zoo's - also a WAZA member - Breeding Centre at Lichtenburg, where they will undergo vaccination against theileriosis. To this end a working group has been formed betwen BACK TO AFRICA and the University of Pretoria to study theileriosis and ways of avoiding it by vaccination.
WAZA Conservation Project 04027 is operated by Back to Africa, supported by Rotterdam Zoo and Dvur Králové Zoo and in cooperation with the University of Pretoria and the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa.
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© Peter Dollinger