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.


Now available online, South West Angola: a portrait of land and life, click here to download a PDF of the book. This is the most informative book published to date about southwest Angola, covering the provinces of Namibe, Cunene and Huíla, written in both English and Portuguese, by the Namibian father-daughter team of John and Stephie Mendelsohn.

This comprehensive book brims with images, maps, graphs and charts that capture the faces, spaces and places of the great open landscapes that makes up Southwest Angola, like this magnificent tree, purported to be the world’s largest baobab, which grows north of Xangongo.

 

Hippo attacks, wrestling rapids and being arrested by Angolan security forces! Hear all about it at the Viking Club, Thursday 5 September, 2019, beginning at 19:30. Oscar Scafidi, author of the latest Bradt Travel Guide to Angola, will present images and video clips and share his experiences kayaking, hiking and wading 1300 km along Angola’s longest river, the Kwanza River, along with his friend Aly. Oscar worked as a History teacher at the Luanda International School from 2009 to 2014 and currently resides in Madagascar. Buy an autographed copy of his book, Kayaking the Kwanza, which will be on sale Thursday evening.

Oscar Scafidi and his friend Aly on the Kwanza River.

Everybody is welcome to attend. For your information the Viking Club in Luanda is a non-profit sociocultural association with Nordic origin with an aim to promote a more knowledge of Angolan society and culture. The Viking Club has its premises on the main floor of the Maianga building, Rua Marien N’Gouabi No.118 in Maianga, across the street from Ambassador/Agencia de Viagens/Turismo. Visit our Join Us page to see a map.

On sale at the Viking Club on Thursday September 5, 2019.

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.

 

Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Third Trimester 2016 Report with photos of Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese, now on our Giant Sable page.

Between July and August 2016 an ambitious aerial census and capture operation was carried out in Luando and Cangandala.

“The objective for the 2016 capture operation would be, over the course of three weeks, to make an updated sable population census in Luando Reserve and place up to 16 GPS collars and 5 VHF collars on giant sable, both in Cangandala and Luando. A complementing objective was to survey as many as possible of previously identified (from satellite imagery) sable hotspots in Luando, including water holes, critical anharas, while assessing and acting against poaching whenever justified.”

The Angolan military participated and provided critical support. In Luando Reserve the operation was a huge success. The three known herds were located and then the two “missing” groups were also found, bringing the total of confirmed herds up to five.

The largest giant sable herd finally located in Luando Reserve.

Ngola, “arguably the most powerfully built, strongest and well proportioned bull we ever handled”,  was found escorting the largest herd in Luando.

 

In Cangandala National Park there was no need for counting the sable population as it is regularly well monitored on the ground. Also the poaching situation isn’t brilliant in Cangandala but at least it is fairly under control, besides the fact that with a couple exceptions all giant sables are contained inside the fenced sanctuary. Therefore the flights in Cangandala were done mainly with the purpose of capturing at least a couple young males and put them VHF collars.

A big surprise in Cangandala was coming across a young male forest buffalo which was clearly  seen and photographed.

Another big surprise, Ivan the Terrible was found and darted outside the fence in Cangangdala!

The slide show below shows evidence of snare-type poaching being carried out especially in the Luando Reserve.

“An important aspect of the operation involved some preventive anti-poaching measures, as a joint effort between our team, the Ministry of Environment, the local political Administrations and the Army from the Northern Military Region. An awareness campaign was carried out and the military made it clear that the giant sable antelope is a national symbol that deserves full protection and they are prepared to endorse the efforts and enforce the law if necessary. As result and over the period of a few weeks, it was possible for the local administration to collect dozens of shotguns that were being used for poaching inside the reserve.”

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Visit our Giant Sable page to read Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full report with more photos, and previous reports. 2017 reports to be posted soon.