Mercury has established himself as the Master Bull

Mercury has long attained a jet-black color.

Mercury has long attained a jet-black color. All photos, Pedro Vaz Pinto.

Instead of constantly following one female herd, he now spends most of his time alone marking and patrolling his territory, and only occasionally bursts calmly amidst a group of immediately-turned submissive females, to claim his bounty. His leadership is now naturally enforced and totally unchallenged. All young males, including the next-in-line Apollo, disappear or keep a safe distance his approach.

Young females are the future of Cangandala; Jovens fêmeas são o futuro da Cangandala.

Young females are the future of Cangandala.

We have at least two good breeding herds, totalling about 30 animals and with a good number of young breeding females… in this regard the prospects in Cangandala are encouraging. On a sad note, many poaching incidents were reported … In Cangandala armed poachers were detected inside the sanctuary and shots were exchanged with the poachers, before they eventually escaped. Also yet another trap camera was stolen, highlighting the lack of security in the park. In Luando Reserve, although it wasn’t possible to access the area because of the rains, we were informed by the rangers that poaching is rampant and one of our trap cameras was destroyed by poachers.

Ending on a bright note, colouful Cangandala… 

Removing a tree that fell over the fence.

Colorful grasshopper in the park.

A male Holub's golden weaver.

A male Holub’s golden weaver.

Read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full First Trimester 2015 Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese on our Giant Sable page.

The last months of 2014 saw some interesting visitors to Cangandala National Park and the Luando Reserve, the two protected terriitories of Angola’s Giant Sable.

An evening storm visits  Luando Reserve

The storm arrived before sunset; A tempestade chegou antes do por-do-sol.

The storm arrived before sunset; A tempestade chegou antes do por-do-sol.

A python! visits one of the salinas in Cangandala Park

Incredible scene: a python on the ambush, and a very nervous hybrid female!!! Cena incrível: uma jibóia emboscada, e uma fêmea híbrida muito nervosa!!!

Incredible scene: a python on the ambush, and a very nervous hybrid female!!! Cena incrível: uma jibóia emboscada, e uma fêmea híbrida muito nervosa!!!

Two young females visiting together

Two young girl calves; Duas jovens crias fêmeas.

Two young girl calves; Duas jovens crias fêmeas.

It is well known that calves tend to stay most of the day in crèches, but even as they grow a young sable seems to prefer the company of same sex and age individuals than to follow his/her mother.

And a warthog who just visited his favourite mud hole!

Warthog male after his daily mud bath; Macho de facochero depois do seu banho de lama diário.

Warthog male after his daily mud bath; Macho de facochero depois do seu banho de lama diário.

And Mercury came for a visit back home! Now “a mighty imposing black bull with massive horns”, who after one year of adventurous dispersal outside of the sanctuary, has returned.

And Mercury again!; E o Mercúrio novamente!

And Mercury again!; E o Mercúrio novamente!

His (Mercury’s) behavior suggests that he is more interested in establishing a territory inside the sanctuary than escorting females on a permanent basis, leaving that task for the subdominant Eolo. If confirmed this may provide new insights into dominance and territorial behavior of sable bulls.

Read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s full Fourth Trimester 2014 Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese on our Giant Sable page.

“A shocking development that we need to report in Cangandala relates, once more, to poaching activities. There is little doubt that we have at least one team of two armed poachers, who have been operating the area at least for the past three years.”

The young roan that was transported on a poacher’s bike; A jovem palanca-vermelha que foi transportada na mota dum caçador.

The young roan that was transported on a poacher’s bike; A jovem palanca-vermelha que foi transportada na mota dum caçador.

Ranger placing a trap camera high to monitor poacher trails; Fiscal colocando uma câmara alto para monitorar passagem de caçadores.

Ranger placing a trap camera high to monitor poacher trails; Fiscal colocando uma câmara alto para monitorar passagem de caçadores.

How safe from poachers are the giant sable like this young male, even though they are inside a fenced area?

Eolo is a handsome young boy, yet to turn black but already with an impressive presence.

Eolo is a handsome young boy, yet to turn black but already with an impressive presence.

Our Toyota was the first car to cross the Luando river in 27 years; O nosso Toyota foi o primeiro carro a atravessar o Luando em 27 anos.

Our Toyota was the first car to cross the Luando river in 27 years; O nosso Toyota foi o primeiro carro a atravessar o Luando em 27 anos.

“And in Luando Reserve poaching is rampant. We found plenty of poaching tracks, active and inactive traps, recently used cartridges, animal carcasses in traps, poacher’s camps…”

Collecting cable snare traps; Recolhendo cabos de armadilhas de laço.

Collecting cable snare traps; Recolhendo cabos de armadilhas de laço.

A poacher eaten by the Luando Lion?! It’s all there in our Giant Sable page. Read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Third Trimester 2014 Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park and Luando Reserve, in English and Portuguese.

Ivan is now a poor masculine figure, humble  and skinny, feeble and frightened, beaten.

Ivan is now a poor masculine figure, humble
and skinny, feeble and frightened, beaten.

Remarkably, out most popular character – crazy Ivan the Terrible resurfaced! Following an absence that lasted for more than six months we had lost hope to locate him alive and assumed he had probably been another casualty of poachers. Well, he is alive yes, but unfortunately…. he was caught in one of the many infamous snare traps that are constantly being mounted in the park and neighboring areas. He has become a shadow of the Ivan we knew, and if it wasn’t for the white ear tags and VHF collar I would find it hard to accept that he is the same individual… Our old Ivan, strong and proud, mighty and threatening, undefeated… is gone.
His left front leg carries a nasty ring-shaped scar, evidence of the cable snare that almost took his life. The incident must have happened many months ago and he must have gone through hell.

His left front leg carries a nasty ring-shaped scar, evidence of the cable snare that almost took his life. The incident must have happened many months ago and he must have gone through hell.

It is likely that the worst has passed and he will survive, but it is hard to predict if he will make a full recovery. This was yet another shocking proof that the poaching curse is far from resolved, even in Cangandala National Park. It is highly frustrating that in spite of all the effort put into the project by the various stakeholders and the very significant successes obtained over the past few years, still we don’t seem to be winning the war against poaching and the recovery and survival of this magnificent and iconic species hangs by a thread.
 
Visit our Giant Sable page to read biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto’s Second Trimester 2014 Report with photos from Angola’s Cangandala Park, in English and Portuguese.
 

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.”

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“… 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!!!”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.