Poaching continues to threaten Angola’s Giant Sable…

An awareness poster. Um poster de sensibilização.

An awareness poster. Um poster de sensibilização.

“FAA, the Angolan Military Forces (army and air force) deployed teams patrolling the Luando Reserve, making local villagers aware of the importance to protect the giant sable, sending the message that from now on, the military will be watchful to protect the national symbol.”

“Nevertheless, a few weeks later we received worrying reports that many armed poachers were still active in Luando, and as compelling evidence the shepherds found a freshly killed roan carcass. It was a yearling male and had been shot by poachers near the diamond areas along the Kwanza River.”

Setting the poacher's camp on fire. Queimando o acampamento dos furtivos.

Setting the poacher’s camp on fire. Queimando o acampamento dos furtivos.

“In the last site visited the shock was even bigger when we burst into the scene and surprised a poacher calmly drying up meat around the fire on a camp situated less than 200 meters from the water hole… Two absent poachers had gone in pursuit of a giant sable bull that had visited the site during the night… The plan was shooting antelopes for a few days, drying up the meat, and then take the product to Malanje and sell it in the market… Unfortunately and much to our shock and disappointment, we learned later, that our poacher escaped detention within 24 hours of being arrested and delivered…”

The tree pangolin is a special and rare resident. O pangolim arborícola é um raro e especial residente.

The tree pangolin is a special and rare resident. O pangolim arborícola é um raro e especial residente.

Even in Cangandala National Park, where the Giant Sable and other rare creatures like the tree pangolin live, there is evidence of poaching.

Visit our Giant Sable page to read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Final Report of 2013 with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park, in English and Portuguese.


Lions in the park?!
Scroll down to see highlights from Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Giant Sable 2013 Capture Operation report.

Veterinarian Pete Morkel and Pedro setting a collar.

Veterinarian Pete Morkel and Pedro setting a collar.

The main objectives of the 2013 operation “for Luando Reserve, were to place as many new tracking collars as possible; track down known herds and animals collared in previous years while trying to find new groups; and very importantly, to get fresh information on the population trends, poaching activities and other threats.”

“… a huge black-mane lion came out of nowhere, jumping from under the grass to the back of the female and quickly knocked her to the ground! We could not believe our eyes! There was a lion in Luando, and it had attacked a sable right underneath the chopper!!!”

“Lowering the chopper and blowing the siren we managed to chase him away! “

“But as dramatic as this scene was, the lion is not our biggest concern. The main predator in Luando walks on two legs, and during the operation we were confronted with new evidence on a daily basis.”

“In previous occasions we found most of the snares to be made of nylon and the minority made of cable, but this time the vast majority of 60 snares collected, were made of steel cable, therefore much more lethal.”

“Two darted females had horrible injuries in the form of amputated legs. This was a shocking find, and the poor female never had a calf and is lost for breeding. In addition two of the bulls found were limping, and after being darted and inspected, they revealed serious injuries on their right hind legs, also clearly caused by snare traps. In total, a staggering rate of 20% of all darted animals (males and females) had serious snare injuries. Considering that this might be the tip of the iceberg, representing just the ones that survived, we can have a good idea on the magnitude of this problem. Surely this level of poaching pressure translates into completely unsustainable harvesting. As far as we could tell, some poaching originated in the local villages. But the more organized and most worrying type of poaching, targeting the larger antelopes such as sable, seems to be fueled by a constant demand for meat to supply the diamond outfits established along the Kwanza River.”

Sendi making a educational presentation for public schools in Cangandala.

Sendi making an educational presentation for public schools in Cangandala.

Visit our Giant Sable page to read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s 2013 Capture Operation Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Special Reserve, in English and Portuguese.

Luando river at dawn; Madrufada no rio Luando.

“The Luando river just before sunrise…”

Family photo with project booklets; Foto de família com as brochuras do projecto.

The shepherds of the Luandos Reserve with their project booklets

“But the most worrying factor were insisting reports of poaching, brought to us by the shepherds. Poaching does seem to be closely linked with several diamond operations established along the Kwanza river, as they create an increasing demand for bushmeat, and this remains unchallenged. And of course, well armed poachers, not only are a permanent threat to the animals, but they put the lives of our shepherds in danger…”


Young Mercury as dominant; Jovem Mercúrio como dominante.

Magnificent Mercury, the first born of our “new” Cangandala

 Visit our Giant Sable page to read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Second Trimester 2013 Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park, in English and Portuguese.

One of Cangandala's exotic creatures.

One of Cangandala’s exotic creatures.

“As for the animals, as always there are new developments to report, and this time a huge surprise was registered. While observing a herd inside the sanctuary in January, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we spotted Joana among the group!

… As the rainy season progressed, the animals did split into several smaller sub-herds, at one given time apparently into 4 groups, one group with old females and the old bull Duarte…”

Visit our Giant Sable page to read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s First Trimester 2013 Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park, in English and Portuguese.

Ol' Duarte back in business! O velho Duarte de volta à acção!

Ol’ Duarte back in business!


Duarte is back! Duarte está de volta!

Duarte is back! Duarte está de volta!

“We had several good developments in Cangandala. Firstly, and quite unexpectedly, old Duarte not only survived but made a sensational recovery. Only a few weeks after we had left him in shocking condition, we found him in great shape and looking after his girls.”

The sable bull carcass; A carcassa da palanca morta.

The sable bull carcass; A carcassa da palanca morta.

“If things went smoothly in Cangandala, it was however very different in Luando Reserve where poaching seems to be rampant, and we were faced with a number of shocking cases to illustrate this, in spite of the desperate efforts from the giant sable shepherds. Two shepherds on patrol were shot at by poachers and on a second occasion managed to apprehend a rifle, as the poacher escaped and left the weapon behind. Plenty of snare traps are being found and dismantled on a regular basis, but arguably the most shocking incident was when, during a routine patrol, the shepherds found a dead body of a freshly killed giant sable bull.”

Visit our Giant Sable page to read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Fourth Trimester 2012 Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park, in English and Portuguese.

Pedro Vaz Pinto updating the Angola Field Group.

Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto presented an update on Angola’s endangered giant sable (palanca negra gigante) to an audience of over 150 members of the Angola Field Group on October 25, 2012.

Audience hears the latest about the giant sable.

In the following video (part one of two) Pedro Vaz Pinto provides an overview of the giant sable including the history and place in Angola’s culture and environment today:

In the following video (part two of two) Pedro Vaz Pinto discusses the 2003 launch of the Giant Sable Project and Conservation Initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Environment – the project’s original objective was to locate the giant sable; the creation of the Shepherd Program in 2004; the publication in 2005 of the first photos of giant sable taken since 1982; information about the hybridaztion of the species that has taken place in Cangandala plus more Giant Sable project highlights up to 2008. Since 2009, the bulk of the project’s activities are being implemented by the Kissama Foundation and the main priority now is conservation of the giant sable.

More highlights from the presentation: 

2010: The first two calves were born in Cangandala and a new fenced camp of 2400 was created (in the process 10 hybrids were inadvertantedly caught inside). 

2011: A new camp of 400 ha was built and a new capture operation was launched; hyrbids were confined in a third camp. The team managed to catch and bring 6 new young females from Luando reserve: three two-year olds and three one-year olds. Two new bulls were also brought in: a young male and one ‘at the prime of life’ named ‘Ivan the Terrible’ due to his uncontrollable nature. Ivan eventually killed the young male and broke through the fence. A third calf was produced.

2012: Two females died of old age; one female became pregnant again and the first calf born in 2010 is now preparing to take over the herd. Currently poaching is the main threat to the giant sable. Snares and pit traps are widely used causing severe trauma and death. A staggering 15% of adult animals captured or photographed had nasty leg injuries caued by traps. About 75% of the Luando reserve is devoid of sables and less than 80 are estimated to survive. The total number of giant sable left is less than one hundred animals making it one of the most critically endangered mammals in the world.

Plan for 2013:
Up to twenty giant sable should be darted and released with VHF and GPS tracking devices for monitoring. Infrastructure should be built in Cangandala and the breeding program monitored. Ongoing genetic and ecological research will continue and be reinforced.

To read Pedro Vaz Pinto’s quarterly reports on the Giant Sable Project visit the Giant Sable page on this website.

Pedro Vaz Pinto at the presentation.

Edible, wild mushrooms fresh from Cangandala Park pop up during the rainy season.



The largest herd of giant sable in Lunado.

Angola’s giant sable (palanca negra), usually regarded as the most magnificent antelope in the world, is also one of the most endangered mammals in Africa today. From civil war to cross breeding and poaching, this animal’s struggle to survive continues. The Angola Field Group invites you to hear an update on The Giant Sable Conservation Initiative, Thursday, October 25 at 8:00 pm at the Viking Club, with Biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto, the man who has spent the last decade rescuing Angola’s splendid antelope. Pedro is also program manager for the Kissama Foundation and researcher at the Catholic University.

Pedro’s last Angola Field Group presentation was in 2009 when he told us about the capture program which translocated all the pure giant sable females in Cangandala National Park by air, to a safe enclosure in the park. Over the last few years the giant sable conservation initiative has made significant progress. A fenced camp covering 4,000 hectares was built in Cangandala National Park, and following the capture operation in 2009 mentioned above and a later one in 2011, a breeding program was initiated which has produced the first calves. Nevertheless there are less than 100 animals alive in total, making this magnificent creature one of the most endangered African mammals. In Luando Reserve, aerial surveys have allowed the project to locate the surviving herds, and several animals were marked and remotely tracked. Luando Reserve is the area of Malange province where the pure male giant sables were captured and flown to the fenced camp in Cangandala to breed with the pure females. Click on ‘Giant Sable’ on this website’s top menu or simply click here for more details of the capture/breeding program. The giant Sable Conservation Initiative is sponsored by: 

1) Block 15 (Esso,BP, Eni, Statoil) 

2) Sonangol & ExxonMobil

3) Angola LNG

Everybody is welcome to attend this presentation. The talk will be in English. In close cooperation with the Viking Club, this event is offered free of charge. Beverages and snacks are sold at the Viking Bar which opens at 7:30 PM. Coupons must be purchased. For sale, traditional baskets hand woven and organic wild honey from Moxico, Angola natural medicine books and posters, a new children’s color illustrated storybook and a book about the Cuvalei Basin in southern Angola.

You can download a map showing the location of the Viking Club on our Join Us page here. The Viking Club is on the main floor of Predio Maianga, the former Swedish Building, at Rua Marien N”Guabi, No 118 in Maianga, across the street from the new Panela de Barro restaurant.