Sable Research Project Delivers Results
For the past three years, Classic Africa has been helping to fund a research project in Botswana's Okavango Delta focusing on the challenges facing sable antelope, one of Africa's rarest (and most beautiful) antelope species. Preliminary results from the project were recently presented, reinforcing the critical importance of preserving suitable sable habitat.
Sable are a highly vulnerable species, and the project confirmed their susceptibility to the effects of predation and competition - during the study period, out of 15 sable calves born on the Kwedi Concession (an exceptionally fertile region in the Okavango Delta), only 4 survived. Sable also have very specific grazing requirements, and never moved more than 5 miles from permanent water sources. This combination of factors limited sable herds to small patches of wooded grasslands, with ample water, nutrious grass, and cover against predation. Given the scarcity of this habitat type in the African savannah, and its desirability to other species (including cattle farmers!), it's little wonder that sable distribution is so limited.
And there are no simple solutions. Attempts have been made in the Kruger National Park to create watering holes in the vicinity of suitable vegetation to attract sable into previously unutilized areas, but this also attracts predators and competing grazers, forcing the sable out. Reintroducing captive-bred sable into suitable areas has been equally unsuccessful because these predator-naive individuals soon fall victim to resident carnivores. At present, the only hope for sable antelope is to preserve existing habitat areas, including an ample buffer zone to keep these areas free of human disruptions.
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