Collaring Operation 2019
Supporting and naming a giant sable
Less than 200 giant sable survive in the remote Luando Nature Strict Reserve encompassing five different herds, and yet this nucleus constitutes two thirds of the global population. These herds are highly threatened and subject to intense poaching pressure, and although recent efforts have allowed us to strengthen the role of rangers and effectiveness of law enforcement measures, it has also been proven difficult to curb the poaching, mostly done by snaring during the dry season or by hunting at night with rifles or shotguns in the rainy season.
A crucial component on the security strategy that was implemented in 2011 and has been improved upon since, relies on having various giant sable individuals equipped with GPS collared and monitored daily by satellite remote tracking. Having several sables being constantly monitored has enhanced security and protection in two very different ways. Firstly, it is giving us a much better and detailed understanding of giant sable biology, and ecological land use of every single herd and even at individual level, which in turn allow us to predict movements and better focus our management action and security measures. Secondly, it sends us real-time red flags as we are now able to identify abnormal movements as they happen, suspected poaching events, and cases of animal injuries or even death.
Over the past eight years we have placed 33 GPS collars, with a maximum of 15 active collars at any given time in Luando Reserve. All five herds have been remotely tracked in the past three years and eight territorial bulls, and five collars (three females and two bulls) were still active by the end of March 2019, but batteries should soon be running flat.
Tracking example: Nadia
Nadia is a female born in 2011 and collared for the first time in July 2013 at 2 years of age.
Collaring of Nadia in July 2013
She was tracked daily via satellite link, and in July 2014 we were able to determine the moment when she calved for the first time and monitor their nursing behavior for several weeks. She had a second calf in the following year, but then disaster stroke in September 2015 at the end of the dry season. Nadia visited a water hole on a drainage line and immediately after her movement pattern suffered a dramatic decline and she became confined in a very small area for several days. It was clear something had happened. We sent a team of rangers to the water hole and retrieved several traps, and a veterinarian rescue operation with attempted in October, however we could not make the final approach to dart the female and eventually we had to give up.
Monitoring Nadia during calving and the poaching incident the following year
In July 2016 we were able to dart Nadia and confirm our worst suspicions: she had been caught in a snare and was seriously injured. A veterinarian intervention was performed and we then replaced the collar before releasing the poor female.
Treating Nadia’s injuries in 2016
Since she was released in 2016, Nadia has recovered well and has been closely tracked on a daily basis. She has fully recovered and is well integrated back in her original herd. Nadia’s collar is one that is still active in April 2019.
Nadia’s movements in April 2019
New Collaring Operation in 2019
A new aerial operation will take place in Luando Reserve during July 2019. One of the main objectives will be an updated survey, but in addition we intend also to put 10 to 15 GPS collars. The animals will be darted from helicopter and handled by an experienced veterinarian, Dr. Peter Morkel, following the experience accumulated in previous operations successfully implemented in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2016. The plan is to have two females collared on each of the herds, and remaining collars should be used on territorial bulls.
As in previous years, the GPS collars will be purchased in South Africa from the company Africa Wildlife Tracking. The collars are also equipped with a VHF beacon which allow ground tracking via a radio link. The estimated duration of batteries is of at least two years. The unitary cost of each collar, which included two years of satellite communication, is of ZAR 37,000.00, which is approximately equivalent to US $2,650.00.
Supporting the giant sable conservation: collaring, naming, tracking and reporting
Following a successful experienced tried in 2016, we invite donors and partners to support giant sable conservation by purchasing GPS collars to be deployed during the July 2019 operation. By donating one GPS collar, a sponsor will contribute directly to the protection of this endangered species, and in return we offer the naming of the specific individual (male or female) and provide quarterly reports on that specific animal’s movements. In addition, the sponsor will of course be recognized in public outreach initiatives, sharing of materials and any other products that to be agreed.
Example of monthly reporting on movements of monitored animals