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. 

 

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

              Camping under the stars in the Luando Reserve.

A skillful drone pilot accompanied Pedro to the Luando Reserve which allowed for a careful survey of some herds. For example, they were able to count a total of 41 animal in Herd 5, see two videos below: 

“A most spectacular experience was flying a drone over a few sable herds. I confess that I had been sceptical about the feasibility of filming wild herds with a drone in the remoteness of Luando reserve, but I was proved wrong, indeed very wrong. I travelled to Luando with my good friend and professional photographer Kostadin Louchanski. We were able to film amazing behavioural scenes, including hierarchical interactions among three master bulls and pre-mating behaviour with females. Pretty unique stuff!”

“In Cangandala the breeding signs have been excellent with plenty of calving, and also with a notably increase of many young bachelor males.”

    Plenty of calves suggest a very successful breeding season in Cangandala.

 Yearling sable males.

And a look at some of the insects inhabiting the park:

               A hunting spider preys on a grasshopper.

                     Unidentified flying insect.

                   Unidentified insect.

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

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.


Hot off the press, a new book published about wild Angola, now available from Protea Publishing and Amazon.

Angola was once one of Africa’s last great wildernesses. Gorillas and chimpanzees shared the pristine rainforests of Cabinda, giant sable antelope roamed the miombo woodlands of Luando, and the enigmatic Welwitschia mirabilis crowded the plains of the Namib. But war, intrigues and arrogance have resulted in the loss and near extinction of most of Angola’s formerly abundant wildlife and the decay and erosion of a once endless Eden.

From 1971 to 1975, author Brian J. Huntley was ecologist for Angola’s five major national parks, surveying the entire country and developing the country’s conservation strategy. Integrating the historical, political, economic and environmental threads that account for Angola’s post-colonial tragedy, Huntley describes in detail the wildlife, wild places and wild personalities that have occupied Angola’s conservation landscape through four decades of war and a decade and a half of peace. Despite the loss of its innocence, Huntley believes that Angola can rebuild its national parks and save much of its wildlife and wilderness.

                         Brian Huntley

Author Brian J. Huntley gave a presentation to the Angola Field Group on December 2011. Following retirement in 2009 as CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, he is currently an independent consultant on conservation research and implementation projects in many African countries for various United Nations agencies. He is also a Research Associate at the Centre for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Cape Town.

 

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

In Cangandala it’s all about bulls as work continues building a new fenced sanctuary, which will be destined in the future to contain bulls for tourism visits.

Putting up a new fence

Putting up a new fence

“Inside the sanctuary the most striking records reflect a steep increase in the number of young males.”

Young males

Young males

Young calf

Young calf

Youth

Youth

A yearling male

A yearling male

“The plan eventually is to remove some of these males to the new sanctuary, as soon as it is finished.”

“The next quarter will be crucial as we are preparing for another capture operation, designed to put collars on animals in Cangandala and Luando, but also to make an updated aerial census of herds in Luando Reserve and, with assistance from military, to support anti-poaching activities also in Luando.”

tusk-award

Shepherd Manuel Sacaia who patrols the Luando reserve received the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award from Prince William for his dedicated service to protecting the giant sable.

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

Cangandala Park buildings under the starry night

Cangandala Park buildings under the starry night

The new year in Cangandala Park saw heavy rains and flooding, thwarting efforts to access the giant sable inside the sanctuary.

“Without being able to track and monitor the animals on the ground, we had to settle with inferring the dynamics from the trap cameras’ records, keeping me busy for quite a while. As usual we obtained plenty of photos, and even after filtering the data to exclude blanks, we got around 30,000! These included the usual species, such as giant sable, roan, hybrids, bushbuck, duiker and warthogs.”

This slide show is dedicated to the night life in Cangandala. While the majority of photos recorded by the stealth cameras feature giant sable and hybrids, it’s interesting to keep track of the well known other species in the park.

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