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 (LNP), Mozambique.
This was part of a study being done by Valerio Macandza from the University of the Witwatersrand, to obtain comparative data on sable movements in LNP and in Kruger National Park (KNP). Valerio has been studying sable for the last three years in the Punda Maria area of the KNP.
The collared sable was part of a herd of four females. A monitoring team, including Grant Knight, Sanparks air services; Billy Swanepoel, LNP 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.
Their aim was to find the collared animal and to collect all the data on where it has been moving to over the past few months. The team was pleased to find there are now seven animals in the same herd with three juveniles that have successfully survived since birth in March/April of this year.
Unfortunately the collar, which is supposed to download its data when a specific laptop and receiver is within a 100m range, did not work so the team had to dart the sable and remove the collar. The information stored has 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 tourism access facility 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 six of the roan that had been 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 two.
The finding is good news - there were two 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 LNP have certainly been successful and with proper aerial censuses in LNP annually 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 Markus.