And some more:
Restoring SA's sable antelope population
08:51 (GMT+2), Wed, 31 August 2011
This two-part series documents the population decline and genetic decline of sable antelope across Southern Africa. The Gravelotte Sable Study Group, with co-operation between the official conservation authority and private landowners, discusses how it's turning the situation around in South Africa. Johan Rabie reports.
In his book, The Wild Sports of Southern Africa, 19th century explorer Captain William Cornwallis Harris describes his first sighting of the sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) circa 1852:
“The horns, which were flat, and upwards of three feet in length, swept gracefully over the back in the form of a crescent. A bushy black mane extended from the lively chestnut-coloured ears, to the middle of the back; the tail was long and tufted; and the glossy jet-black hue of the greater portion of the body contrasted beautifully with the snow-white face and belly.”
Roughly 50 years later, in 1898, a sable bull was hunted near Tshokwane in the now Kruger National Park (KNP). Its horns measured 55â…œ inches (140,65cm) long, with the tips 21¾ inches (55,25cm) apart and a base circumference of 10¼ inches (26cm). This animal still holds the number one spot in Rowland Ward’s game records.
The book, Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, provides an internationally accepted benchmark within the game industry for what constitutes a trophy animal. Apart from this magnificent specimen, the 27th edition of the first volume of this book, published in 2006, contains a further 1 157 entries.
To qualify for entry into the record book, a sable must have horns of at least 41â…ž inches (106,36cm) long. Of the total 1 158 entries in the 27th edition, only 34 (3%) exceed the magical 50-inch (127cm) threshold!
However, what is extremely concerning is the almost 10% decrease in average horn length over the last 100 years. Of all trophies listed in the book, 83% (948) were hunted between 1950 and 2000 at a rate of about 20 animals per annum. A further cause for concern is the fact that only seven qualifying animals were recorded between 2000 and 2005.
It’s interesting to note that South Africa is in fifth position as far as average horn lengths go. This is despite the fact that a sable antelope hunted in South Africa holds the number one Rowland Ward record.
The average horn length in South Africa is 1,1 inches (2,79cm) or 2,47% below Zambia’s average. It’s also interesting to note that the three countries ahead of South Africa, – Zaire, Malawi and Namibia – are only represented by a very small number of animals.
Decline and deterioration
The concern raised regarding the declining number of qualifying trophy animals in recent decades points to the larger problem with the sable antelope’s dwindling population. The sable antelope population in the KNP and surrounding areas has declined dramatically over the last few decades.
The 1986 KNP census recorded about 2 200 individuals. Today, the number is estimated at only 100 to 200 animals. In the 1930s an estimated 15 000 to 20 000 sable antelope occurred in the vicinity of Gravelotte, about 150km north-west of Tshokwane where the record sable was hunted. By 1985, this population fell to about 800 animals.
Following the 1985 census, Dr SS du Plessis, who was Tranvaal’s Nature Conservation director at the time, asked Pieter Vorster, a respected farmer in Gravelotte, to establish a study group. Its objective was to reverse the declining sable population in the Gravelotte area, which was widely regarded as the bastion of the species in South Africa. Thus, the Gravelotte Sable Study Group (GSSG) was formed with Pieter as its first chairperson.
Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, 27th Edition, Volume 1, 2006;
Guide to Improved Success. Moving the South African Sable from 37’ to 53’ and Beyond. Gravelotte Sable Study Group, 2010.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.