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Sable and Roan Antelope Do Well in Limpopo National Park

21 December 2007

by Michele Hofmeyr

In February 2007 a special data logging collar (which records the daily movements of the animal using GPS co-ordinates) was fitted to a sable in a naturally occurring herd in the southern area of the Limpopo National Park, Mozambique. This was part of a study being done by Mr Valerio Macandza from Wits University to obtain comparative data on sable movements in Limpopo Natinal Park and in Kruger National Park (KNP). Valerio has been studying sable for the last 3 years in the Punda Maria area of the KNP. The collared sable was part of a herd of 4 females.

A monitoring team, including Grant Knight (SANParks Air Services), Billy Swanepoel (Limpopo National Park Wildlife manager), Valerio Macandza, Bruce Leslie (Corporate Investigation Services SANParks) and Markus Hofmeyr (Veterinary Wildlife Services, SANParks) took to the skies to find out how these rare species are doing in this part of the transfrontier conservation area. They also needed to find the collared animal to collect all the data on where it has been moving to and from over the past few months.

The team was pleased to find there are now 7 animals in the same herd with 3 juveniles that have successfully survived from birth since March/April of this year. Unfortunately the collar, which is supposed to download its data when a specific laptop and receiver is within 100m range, did not work so the team had to dart and remove the collar. This information has been stored to be manually retrieved. Valerio will then be able to see how the sable movements differ across the border.

The team searched the area east and south of Giriyondo Border Gate in Limpopo National Park and found an increase in sable numbers in this area, growing from 17 animals in 2001 to over 40 (possibly more) in two herds by 2007. With continued protection this trend should continue.

Working in the same area, the team managed to find 6 of the roan that were released in 2005. There may have been more as they found the roan in a remote area east of Giriyondo as individuals or groups of 2. The finding is good news – there were 2 juveniles and all the animals were in excellent health. If they remain protected and undisturbed it is anticipated that the herd numbers will grow into a sustainable population.

“Most of the wildlife introductions conducted into Limpopo National Park have certainly been successful and with proper aerial censuses in Limpopo National Park yearly we will quickly be able to determine the progress of the recolonisation of wildlife into the area. We believe that with the correct protection, sable and other rare antelope will increase in numbers more steadily because of suitable habitat and fewer predators” says Dr Hofmeyr.

Photos courtesy Dr Markus Hofmeyr
Veterinary Wildlife Services.