The Hyaena Specialist Group is looking for reliable observations of aardwolf, brown hyaena and spotted hyaena in Angola to determine their current conservation status and distribution. This is an ongoing worldwide data call.


If you have information, please supply your observations in the Excel sheet (download here) so that it is easier to integrate your observations into the project’s overall database, however all information will be accepted in whatever form and format is available for you.

Click here for a grid map of Angola where you can mark in which grid cell you have observed one of these hyaena or aardwolf and when. Any additional information is welcome so as to improve the quality and reliability of the new species distribution maps.

Please send your information or any related questions that you have to Dr. Florian Weise at the Ongava Research Centre in Namibia: fw@ongava.com and follow the Hyaena Specialist Group Facebook page here for updates.

Read Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Second Semester 2019 Report with photos in English and Portuguese, now on our Giant Sable page.

The amazingly beautiful regrowth of geoxyle suffruttex vegetation in the anharas of Cangandala in August.

“Looking back, we have moved a long way in Cangandala National Park, sixteen years since our first hesitant and quite unsuccessful on-foot survey. By then we weren’t even sure if giant sable had survived the civil war, and it took us a few years to conclude that only a few old cows were left, and all males had been poached in the park. Ten years have now passed since a bull from Luando reserve was flown from Luando to join the surviving nine females in a fenced camp, and nine years completed since the first little calf was born to mark the start of the new era. Being a male, the calf received the name of Mercury, a roman god of communication, travelling and soul-guiding, and also the planet closest to the sun. A lot of hopes and responsibility was laid on Mercury’s shoulders, but over the years he has certainly risen to the occasion, becoming the master bull in Cangandala and making a significant contribution to the breeding success of the local herd.”

Mercury, not the number one anymore but still an imposing specimen.

The remarkable créche enjoying the anhara in Cangandala.

“This crèche comprised at one stage 20 little ones, which may well be the largest concentration of giant sable calves ever recorded. Adding a few off-season births in subsequent months, gives good reason to consider 2019 as a hugely successful year in Cangandala!”

Several males revolving around a receptive cow.

“Very interesting behavior was witnessed during breeding period, some of which was somewhat unexpected or at least not textbook material. We found all males present and cohabiting the same area, including the large master bulls, the younger territorial contenders and even the much younger from bachelor groups. It seems they all converge to the herd and orbit around the breeding cows.”

The herd peacefully resting and ruminating at mid-day.

“We estimate the current numbers in Cangandala to be around 80 animals, all still confined inside the 4,400-hectare sanctuary. All evidence and observations suggest that the herd is doing extremely well, as inferred by physical condition of animals, breeding rate and success, low mortality, and no indications of overgrazing or excess of antagonistic behavior.”

A red-lipped herald, probably one of the commonest snakes in the park.

They usually put on quite an aggressive show but are harmless.

Visit our Giant Sable page to read Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full report.

 

Read Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Capture Operation 2019 Report with photos of Angola’s Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese, now on our Giant Sable page.

Flying over one of the five known herds in the Luando Reserve. The bull leads the way.

The Aerial Capture Operation in July 2019 focused exclusively on the Luando Reserve. 

“In brief, the operation was a huge success! In total, we darted 17 sable and deployed all our 15 GPS collars, distributed in nine females and six bulls. No casualties, or incidents affecting the health of local animals as result of our actions, was to be recorded. An updated survey was concluded, plus detailed demographic data and threat assessment.”

Wilbur, the largest bull collared on this operation.

“We collared four mature bulls, presumed territorial, and one of them was accompanying one of the herds. … All these mature bulls were very nice healthy specimens, with average horns that measured between 52 and 56 inches in length.”

Magnificent territorial bull, surely the most impressive seen in 2019, but which we could not dart.

“Regarding the bulls, the biggest surprise, by far, was finding Bruno alive, a bull that had been collared in 2013 and then estimated to be around 12, which would make him today 18 years old! Considering that we had never found a bull older than 15, this was quite a shocker.”

Old Bruno. We removed his 2013 collar and wished him a peaceful ending.

“Always fascinating to report on the bulls, but the females are the crucial component, and we were eager to tackle the herds.”

Cow on the run.

And a little calf.

Another female marked – Henriette.

“…the number of cows has remained stable or even reduced slightly, but in compensation, the average age of females has dropped and the number of yearlings and immatures has increased significantly. These parameters suggest a much healthier population, with a higher potential for growth in the short term, and one that appears to have suffered a lot less pressure from snaring over the last three years.”

An amazing bachelor group with seven beautiful young males of ages 3 and 4 years old – one would be darted later on.

“Although we’ve never done it before, this year we decided to collar two four-year-old bulls from different bachelor groups. They were both very nice powerful young specimens, with horn lengths between 46 and 48 inches… by tracking a four-year-old we hope to detect and document the moment when they settle down and become territorial, a phenomenon that is still poorly understood.

Veterinarian Dr. Pete Morkel administering the antidote on a giant sable bull.

Although possibly less than in previous years, poaching is still a major concern in some areas, where the water holes were often full of traps aiming to catch sable.

Including cable snares and nasty gin traps!

A magnificent sight- the largest sable herd in which we counted 40 individuals!

“Comparing 2016 and 2019 demographic data for the five herds, we estimate a population increase of roughly 15%, which I consider a fairly good result.”

Visit our Giant Sable page to read Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full report.

Download the 2018 Annual Report of the Angolan Association for Birds and Nature (Associação Angolana Para Aves e Natureza), in English with a brief summary in Portuguese, compiled by Michael Mills, on bird conservation and research activities in Angola. Click here to download the six-page PDF.


Visit this website’s Birds page here to read more materials about birds in Angola, including past annual reports by the Angolan Association for Birds and Nature.

NOTE (update on Nov. 10, 2019): Regarding the December poaching incident below in which three poachers were arrested red-handed with the remains of a freshly killed giant sable female and then set free by the judicial system, it was not actually the judge who made the decision. The poachers were sent home by a local prosecutor with whom the poachers and respective families managed to negotiate a friendly release. This of course raises some worrying issues regarding the conduct of local police authorities, but also means that the incident is not necessarily closed from a formal legal standpoint. Source: Palanca Report First Semester 2019.

Read Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Second Semester 2018 Report with photos of Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese, now on our Giant Sable page.

The Luando Reserve is where most of the Giant Sable work has been focused lately, and where the tasks are more challenging…

Recently-appointed head of rangers for Luando, senior ranger whose war name is Fox, is doing an excellent job in training and organizing the sable shepherds and turning them into functional rangers.

“Benefiting from preliminary undercover intelligence work and with firm collaboration received from local villagers that a serious poaching team had crossed the Luando river and was operating in a given region, we sent our six best rangers to survey the area and prepare an ambush if possible. Six poachers were intercepted and following a few shots fired, three got away but the other three were detained, plus one weapon, ammunition and three well maintained motor bikes. Significantly they were carrying various animal parts and remains and included the skin of a giant sable female.”

History is made. The first time in 50 years poachers are arrested with evidence of killing a giant sable! A day in the life of a ranger on patrol in Luando, view the slide show:

 

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“Although we worked in close collaboration with provincial authorities, government, police and military and we thought that all the necessary steps had been taken to make sure the poachers would receive exemplary punishment, the judge ruled that the poachers should be released upon paying a fine of AKZ 250,000.00, which was worth less than US $250.00 per person. This was a ridiculous amount, and worth much less than what they had already profited from selling the bush meat! This ruling blatantly ignored that the act of killing of a giant sable – our natural national symbol, had recently been criminalized and the fine set at the very impressive and dissuasive amount of AKZ 22,000,000. And yet they got away paying only 1% of what the law recommends because the judge took pity on them or possibly didn’t think this was such a serious offence. Needless to say, this was a huge blow to the morale of the rangers, and even the local villagers feel frustrated and revolted by the judicial system.”

Visit our Giant Sable page to read Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full report.

 

Read Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s First Semester 2018 Report with photos of Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese, now on our Giant Sable page.

Flap-necked chameleon.

Generous rains that continued into May brought new life to the park and reserve after the previous year’s drought.

“Sable are breeding exceptionally well, they are well protected and the area of the sanctuary is still big enough to sustain a fast growing population.”

Luando Reserve inundated in March during patrols.

“The step up of security measures initiated in the previous year is producing encouraging signs. In particular, the semi-permanent presence of two senior rangers, well equipped and maintained, and fully motivated has been a game changer in the reserve.”

Insect life in Cangandala … View the slideshow:

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“The message is clear: the giant sable is a national symbol and sacred, so Government and partners want to take seriously the mission to protect the species.”

Visit our Giant Sable page to read Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full report. 

 

Read Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Second Semester 2017 Report with photos of Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese, now on our Giant Sable page.

Ivan the Terrible in 2011. He was so strongly built the radio collar looks dwarfed around his neck.

“R.I.P. Ivan!

“Ivan the Terrible passed away on July 10th 2017. An imposing bull, massively built and scarred from battles at age 8 when we first found him in Luando in July 2011… After six years of freedom and adventure outside the enclosure, the old warrior decided to return to captivity where he finally died. His death appears to have been “natural” and peaceful.”

 

“Sable breeding in the sanctuary is going exceptionally well and the population is steadily increasing. We have surely more than 60 pure animals at the moment and with a very healthy age structure – these days, calves and young make up for the majority of giant sables in Cangandala.”


“Mercury has assumed his leading role, and inherited the gentle nature, tolerance and serenity from his father Duarte.”


“Eolo is more elusive and nervous than Mercury, but he promises to soon become an exceptional specimen …. his horns are very impressive and quite larger and more handsomely arched than Mercury’s.”


“In Luando the giant sables are being tracked remotely, and the data obtained are allowing us to keep a daily surveillance achieved via satellite communications with the shepherds.”

“Following national elections in September, a new President and Government was appointed in Angola. Changes are happening at various levels, some being most promising for the future of our natural heritage, and a special commission was created in December by presidential decree for the protection of the giant sable.”

Visit our Giant Sable page to read Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full report. 

The International Crane Foundation conducted an aerial survey of Cameia National Park in Moxico and the surrounding Bulozi Plain of Angola, a massive fresh water floodplain, and discovered three new breeding grounds for Wattled Cranes.

Wattled Crane families, one of the newly discovered populations.

Wattled Crane habitat on the Bulozi Plain.

Click here to download a PDF version of the August 2018 issue of the Foundation’s publication, The Bugle.

Angolan reed frog, endemic to Angola

The Angolan Escarpment is the least known and studied part of the African Great Escarpment. Urgent research is required to protect and conserve Angola’s threatened biodiversity. Several observatories have been implemented throughout Angola including one in the southern escarpment in Tundavala.

A recent study states that despite this area’s stunning landscape that is home to several endemics, Tundavala “lacks official national protected status and is threatened by increasing human activities, especially logging and burning for charcoal production and the harvesting of natural resources such as medicinal plants and rocks for building purposes. Increasing numbers of villagers inhabit the region with their livestock (cows and goats) and plant crops. Other threats include man-made fires and the dumping of rubble and domestic, commercial, and even medical waste.”

As part of this study on Biodiversity and Ecology by Hamburg University, you can now download a special report titled Amphibians and reptiles of the Tundavala region of the Angolan Escarpment, by researchers Ninda Baptista, Telmo António, and William R. Branch. Click here for the PDF.

(Baptista, N., António, T. & Branch, W.R. (2018) Amphibians and reptiles of the Tundavala region of the Angolan Escarpment. In: Climate change and adaptive land management in southern Africa – assessments, changes, challenges, and solutions (ed. by Revermann, R., Krewenka, K.M., Schmiedel, U., Olwoch, J.M., Helmschrot, J. & Jürgens, N.), pp. 397-403, Biodiversity & Ecology, 6, Klaus Hess Publishers, Göttingen & Windhoek. doi:10.7809/b-e.00351). Photos taken from the article.

Ansorge’s whip snake, endemic to Angola

Available now, The Special Birds of Angola, a guide to birds of Angola by Michael Mills. Click on the book cover to download a sneak-peek of the book:


This book can be purchased directly from the author: www.goawaybirding.com or via the BirdLife South Africa bookshop at www.birdlife.org.za.

The Red-crested Turaco is the national bird of Angola. Image taken from The Special Birds of Angola. 

“Angola is endowed with the richest diversity of eco-regions of any African country. Its habitats range from the mobile dunes of the Namib Desert to the equatorial rainforests of Cabinda, from arid savannas of the Cunene Basin to the moist miombo woodlands of the Bie planalto, and from the floodplains of the Cuando-Cubango to the montane grasslands and forests of the Benguela highlands. It is thus not surprising that Angola has a remarkably rich birdlife, one of the richest on the continent.

Despite all the natural treasures of Angola, it remains one of the most poorly researched regions of the globe. Fortunately, this situation is rapidly changing. Increasing numbers of young Angolan biologists are joining expeditions led by international experts in the study of Angola’s biodiversity. For more than a decade, Michael Mills has been working with Angolan colleagues in exploring the far corners of the country, discovering and documenting the incredibly rich diversity of birds. Most importantly, he has been working with the local communities of Morro Moco to protect the critically threatened forests of Angola’s highest mountain, where many bird species known nowhere else, are found.

This book is a unique and major contribution to bringing the diversity and beauty, but also the rarity and vulnerability, of Angola’s avifaunal treasures to the attention of the Angolan people. By highlighting the birds of special interest to ornithologists, to conservationists, and to the general public, Michael and his collaborators have set a benchmark for promoting awareness of the importance of Angola’s avifauna and the habitats they occupy to the world at large. Without knowledge, there can be no appreciation, and without awareness there can be no conservation. As Angola’s critically important bird areas come under increasing threat, time is not on the side of the birds and their habitats. This book can help reverse the trend.” – From the Foreword by Brian Huntley to the newly published book, The Special Birds of Angola.