Sunday, October 26, 2014

ANGOLA: Giant Sable Palanca Report

Dear friends,

The trimester started off with worrying news from Cangandala. Partially in response to our constant reporting of poaching, the municipal authorities organized with the local police a series of nocturnal operations placing checkpoints at various dirt roads around the park. And on one occasion detained a poacher which was carrying in his motor bike a roan antelope! It was a yearling female and he had chopped out its head, but still it is amazing how he was driving to Malanje with such a large antelope in his bike. He was duly arrested by the authorities, and at least for a while he stuck in jail while awaiting trial prosecution. It is unclear where the roan was shot, and it may have been outside the park’s boundaries, but of course it may be this case may be the tip of the iceberg.

In spite of the generous rains in previous months, the dry season this year was fairly intense in Cangandala, and against our expectations the natural water holes and drainage lines dried up quite rapidly. This caused occasional shortage of water inside the sanctuary which in turn may have contributed to raise the stress on the animals. Probably of result of this there was quite a lot of animal activity and testing along the fence, and unfortunately it was even brought down a few times as some antelopes violated the perimeter. It wasn’t clear to us which animals broke through the fence. In a couple occasions it may have involved roan, but at least once it was suspected that some sable escaped the sanctuary.

Ground observations and the trap camera record proved that the old females and at least most of the hybrids are still contained in the sanctuary and therefore, our concern grew as we fear that part of the young group may have escaped. Unfortunately none of those sable visited the salt licks in recent months, further raising our suspicions. Tracking the animals on the ground allowed us to locate one young group inside the sanctuary, which included the only two functioning collars in young females. This group comprised six females (ages 2, 4 and 5), two yearlings, five calves and it was escorted by Eolo, a young 2-year old male (third in Cangandala-born lineage, after Mercury and Apollo). Eolo is a handsome young boy, yet to turn black but already with an impressive presence. We were in fact able to approach them several times and get them habituated to our presence, allowing for plenty of nice close-range photos. The composition of this subgroup demonstrates that the initial young herd has split in two, also considering that Mercury had long broken through the fence, the other group likely will be guarded by Apollo and might include five other females and four or five yearlings, plus a few calves. During my visits I could not find the second group, and witness accounts from the rangers are inconsistent (they claim to have seen the group both outside and inside the fence, with irreconcilable numbers and dates). This is a mystery hopefully to be solved during next trimester. Of course the possibility that half of our best breeding sable might be outside the fenced camp, can have major implications on the whole program and force us to propose exceptional response measures. For the time being and until proven otherwise, we will assume the worst case scenario and plan accordingly.

Outside the sanctuary the trap cameras recorded once again our good old friend Ivan the Terrible, patrolling his territory. He has clearly put on some weight and might be recovering some of his lost pride. But hopefully not too much of it. As for Mercury we couldn’t find him, and unconfirmed witness accounts place him patrolling a new territory on the opposite side of the sanctuary, far away from Ivan. I really miss this boy, and it would be a waste if we lose him as a breeding bull. Back inside the fenced camp and after months of frustrating delay it was finally possible to make a bore hole located in a scenic landscape right at the core of the sanctuary, which we will now make sure it will be operational at the onset of the next dry season.

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. They know the area quite well, and mostly hunt at night with a spotlight near the sanctuary, but we know at least a couple times have ventured inside. They have been photographed by a Trap Camera back in 2012, and every now and then have manipulated, destroyed by fire or even stolen cameras. And they seem to have become progressively bolder in their actions. This time they completely destroyed one camera with an axe and took the memory card. Still, one of them was photographed a couple of weeks earlier on a different camera which they are unaware of. Unfortunately we obtained dark night photos, only useful to confirm we’re dealing with the same individuals but not good enough for precise IDs. We have now laid some traps with cameras hidden high up in trees, hoping to catch them in the act next time. This and more efforts are on the way to see if we can catch these guys.

Further south, the bridge across Luando River was finalized in July, and therefore we were able to drive the first car into the reserve in 27 years! We did a couple trips in this period to the reserve and each time spent several nights camping in the deep bush. Having the vehicle with us meant quite an improvement in terms of logistics and reach. But of course the bridge is also cause for concern as it facilitates the way for poachers and stimulates the greed for local natural resources. On the first trip we learnt that our old lion friend had returned to the region and created havoc among some locals, to the point that in certain villages people were strongly encouraged not to come out after dark. Another concern for the sable, although I remember thinking that if we’re lucky this could maybe deter or demoralize some poachers… who knows maybe the lion could even catch one poacher.

In Luando we also tried to approach the sable herds, but even tracking the VHF signals we had limited success. The region is very extensive and remote, and these animals are quite nervous, always on alert for poachers. Therefore the best we could achieve was very brief encounters, and for obvious reasons we decided not to push them further. Most of our time was used to patrol water holes and other hotspots previously identified from satellite imagery. Unfortunately it showed us once again that poaching is rampant in the reserve. We found plenty of poaching tracks, active and inactive traps, recently used cartridges, animal carcasses in traps, poacher’s camps, and even once we came across an armed poacher who got away before we could detain him. As this wasn’t enough the trap camera record were equally enlightening, as apart from roan and smaller antelope pictures, we obtained many photos of poachers, in five independent occasions! This fact was quite alarming.

Now I saved the best for last to end this report on less somber note (even if some might disagree): Before we left the reserve by the end of September we learnt the most amazing news. The lion did it!!! Our big boy caught, killed and had a poacher for supper. And he got away with it. According to the story as told at one local village by a very scared survivor, he and his friend were hunting at night with spotlights, and his companion was in front and carrying a shotgun, when he was ambushed by the big lion who gave him no chance to fight back. The second poacher run away as fast as he could and only stopped at the village, many kms further. He refused to go back to the meal site the following day and disappeared before long. Apparently no one could figure out where the poachers had come from, but were assumed to be diamond diggers operating along the Kwanza River. Now we hope the survivor to tell his tale, and spread it among his buddies.

I must admit that I am starting to see the lion under a different light now. A romantic person could be tempted to accept the lion as an active conservation agent fighting to hold his ground against competitors, while a cynical person could suggest that the lion is simply going for the most abundant prey: poachers! In any case, and however we choose to look at it, my respect for the Big Boy has increased exponentially!!!

Photos are available at the following link:

Best wishes,


Friday, September 5, 2014

NAMIBIA: Ebola Travel Ban

#VieranasSafaris #BowhuntNamibia

The Namibian government has announced that, with the exception of Namibian citizens and residents, travelers arriving from countries affected by the Ebola virus disease will not be allowed entry into the country.

The country has banned all travelers from Guinea; Liberia; Nigeria; and Sierra Leone as part of precautionary measures to prevent the virus from reaching its shores.

Those who are allowed to enter will be subject to strict screening measures.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Your hunting Partner in Namibia

Vieranas Safaris is a Bow hunting outfitter in the north-west of Namibia, close to the village of Kamanjab and bordering the communal Khoadi //Hoas Conservancy of Damaraland, five hours drive from the capital city Windhoek.

We are a Namibia owner run hunting operator, the 4th generation on this privately owned hunt area in Africa . We offer top quality plains game hunts at affordable prices with no hidden costs.

We invite you to come and experience Africa in a friendly and safe environment where you the hunter and your family can relax and enjoy the Namibian bush.

Not surprisingly almost 80% of our hunters are returning as friends looking forward to their next Vieranas Safaris experience.

Contact us today: We look forward to being a part of your next hunting adventure!

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Air Namibia Charging to transport hunting equipment

#Vieranas #NamibiaHunt

If you are flying with Air Namibia for a safari be aware that the airline is charging additional fees for your firearms as checked baggage. Although the fee went into effect May 1, 2013, hunters are being caught unawares at check-in, so we are sending out this warning for those uninformed by the airline or their travel agent.

The cost for international flights operated by Air Namibia is Euro 80,00 for a rifle (+case), including 5kg ammunition. The same fees will apply to other sporting equipment, such as archery hunting gear, golf gear etc.

Air Namibia do not accept Euro’s at the Windhoek check-in, only Namibian Dollars. Please make sure you have the N$ cash in hand as the foreign exchange bureau at Hosea Kutako Airport, Windhoek is not open 24/7.

You can pay for your Hunting Equipment when you book your flight ticket. Please ask your travel agent about this option. It can prevent a lot of hassle at Frankfurt Airport and Hosea Kutako Airport, Namibia

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vieranas Safaris Condems Poaching

VIERANAS SAFARIS condemns poaching and illegal possession of protected wild life products and therefore fully support the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism who has condemned the recent cases of poaching and the illegal possession of 14 rhino horns while calling on the culprits to refrain from such activities with immediate effect or risk their chances of being caught and face the full wrath of the law.

Your Ultimate HUNT AND BOWHUNT OUTFITTER IN NAMIBIA. Vieranas Adventure Safaris in Namibia offers the perfect Safari destination for first time hunters, seasoned hunters and family hunting groups.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Black Rhino Dallas Safari Club Auction Winner

Corey Knowlton, the hunter who has been identified as the winner of a controversial auction held by the Dallas Safari Club to hunt an endangered black rhino, has issued a statement calling for a discussion on conservation.

The Safari Club's auction on January 11 was attended by high-roller hunters who bid on the opportunity to shoot a mature male black rhino. Though predicted to net up to $1 million, the highest bid, reportedly made by Knowlton, was $350,000. The event was framed as a fundraiser, the proceeds from which would be earmarked for preservation of the species.

The auction has launched an international debate about whether allowing a hunter to kill a defenseless rhino is a logical way to preserve the species. The Safari Club defended the auction, declaring that "selective hunting helps rhino populations grow" and that "removing old, post-breeding bulls, which are territorial, aggressive and often kill younger, breeding bulls, cows and even calves, increases survival and productivity in a herd."
Since Knowlton's name became public, he's been deluged by thousands of messages from both sides: criticism from animal advocates and support from hunters. But his statement seems aimed at the protestors.

Corey Knowlton

"Thank you all for your comments about conservation and the current situation regarding the Black Rhino," it says. "I am considering all sides and concerns involved in this unique situation. Please don't rush to judgment with emotionally driven criticism towards individuals on either sides of this issue. I deeply care about all of the inhabitants of this planet and I am looking forward to more educated discussion regarding the ongoing conservation effort for the Black Rhino."

Knowlton is a consultant for a hunting outfit called Hunting Consortium Ltd. and has appeared on hunting TV shows such Jim Shockey's The Professionals. But his role as top bidder in such a high-profile high-dollar auction seems surprising. In addition to a hunting-guide company called Global Hunting Resources, his other business ventures in prior years have included septic and concrete companies.
Culturemap Dallas - by Teresa Gubbins

ANGOLA: Giant Sable -Palanca Report August - December 2013

Dear friends,

Following the July capture operation things stabilized in Cangandala NP. This year rains started early in September and as result of heavy works being done in the park by Government, to put bungalows and bringing new fencing materials, the access roads soon became so damaged, that from October onwards it became impossible to drive across the boundary into the park. For this reason we could only monitor the animals until September and after that we had to rely exclusively on the trap camera records. Inside the sanctuary and by the end of the dry season, a new well and water tank were being finalized and an elevated viewpoint was constructed over the Cazela river drainage.

In late September the animals seemed to be doing very well, with young Mercury proudly assuming his role as the new master bull of Cangandala. The sables are consistently split in two herds, the younger group closely watched by Mercury and the old females lumped with the hybrids and apparently without permanent presence of any bull. In the latter case it still remains unclear if one of the castrated hybrid bulls has any deterrent effect on the pure males, but apparently the much younger Apollo at age 2 is now gravitating around the old cows.

Most importantly we were able to confirm eight new calves born in 2013, the mothers being the six young females brought from Luando in 2011, and from Louise and Teresa, the two very old fertile cows that can’t stop breeding. And we still hope for a ninth calf that may have been produced by Venus, the first female born in the sanctuary back in 2010. Overall, and if we exclude the four problematic and old cows that have lost their breeding potential and never calved, then for the remaining cows the fertility is outstanding and pretty much at 100% since we started the breeding program. This is just one part of the equation as female sable are always expected to be very fertile, while it is the calf mortality during first year of age that often becomes a limiting factor for population growth.

Unfortunately we couldn’t drive into the sanctuary after September and the herds went few times to the salt licks for family photos, and so we couldn’t track properly calf development and success. By the end of the year it also seemed clear that we have permanently lost the two older bulls that had been the main protagonists in Cangandala for the past few years. Duarte was very old anyway and had done his part producing the first pure offspring produced in this park in over a decade. It seems logical that the terrible fight with Ivan back in March was his last. As for our most popular character, crazy Ivan the Terrible, unfortunately he seems to be out of the picture too. In May, Ivan was photographed, healthy and majestic, but in June he had disappeared while his collar was not emitting signal, and this was confirmed in subsequent months. There is no other large bull in the region and no serious wild predators in Cangandala, not to mention that Ivan was the strongest sable we have ever dealt with, so I’m afraid that we have to conclude that he was poached. Either shot by poachers or caught in a snare trap, and then the collar must have been intentionally destroyed.

The rainy season is when the fence is most vulnerable, because of frequent storms with trees and branches falling over. This has been cause for concern, and in addition it became apparent during the last few months that the fence has been challenged several times with animals breaking through. And of course there is no more Ivan to blame. So far it seems that no sable has escaped, but on the other hand at least two new roan bulls have invaded and established inside the sanctuary. This shouldn’t be surprising, as the roan population has apparently increased significantly in Cangandala or at least approaching the sanctuary, as proven by our remarkable trap camera record. Under such circumstances it is only normal that young roan males are naturally dispersing from their herds and finding good shelter inside the neighboring sanctuary. And our fence is clearly not a sufficient deterrent to stop a young roan bull on a mission. We confirmed in the photographs a young mature bull and also a lonely yearling, in two different salt licks. The latter is yet another animal that, miraculously given his age and smaller size, has survived a snare trap, showing an ugly scarred front leg. The unfortunate incident probably explains why he got astray at so tender age. When caught in the snare he must have suffered for a while, then panicked and got lost, before breaking into the sanctuary. Lost and lonely he was now recorded attempting to approach an old sable cow, probably a desperate attempt to find company.

In 2012 and concerned with continuing hybridization risks, we castrated the young and only roan male (Freddy) inside the sanctuary as he had joined the sable cows and we suspected they were poorly attended by old Duarte. Now the situation has changed slightly and it is not realistic to keep tackling in such radical fashion every new roan invader. Especially because they will probably keep coming and more importantly the sable herds seem now properly supervised by young sable bulls. But we’ll keep watching… On the other hand and even if Ivan’s fate remains open to debate, the injuries on the new young roan prove that poaching with snares is still a major issue even in Cangandala NP, so a lot still remains to be done.

In Luando Reserve the fifteen sable equipped with GPS collars are being tracked permanently and apparently are all safe for now. It seems clear that the most serious threat pending over the last surviving giant sable herds in Luando, are the snare traps planted around the majority of water holes, mainly concentrated between June and August, and aiming to capture by the leg any medium to large ungulate that attempts to approach the site to drink. This infamous technique, often targeting the largest antelopes (mostly sable and roan) seems to be causing huge and unsustainable annual mortality on giant sable. Particularly affected are the most vulnerable, such as breeding cows and young animals, and this is supported by our demographic data. Pregnant and recently calved cows are probably the most dependent on a constant water supply, while yearlings are trusting, adventurous and inexperienced, and many times lack the strength to escape a snare. Old bulls are more weary creatures, less dependent on water and much stronger. This may explain why the bull population in Luando seems to be in better shape than the females and respective herds, and why so many females have serious leg injuries, and also why there seems to be an abnormally low annual recruitment of young animals into adult age, and contrasting with healthy numbers of calves.

In an effort to counteract the rampant dry season poaching we have devised and successfully tested a new strategy, and which we expect will start producing results next season. Firstly we have acquired high resolution satellite imagery, and as result we were able to pinpoint an accurate water network for the whole reserve. Secondly, all water points were provisionally classified according to their nature, size and proximity to known sable territories or home ranges. One interesting surprise was finding that the water network was a lot more prolific than expected or at least perceived from our earlier ground experience… there is a lot more water available than we suspected, and this could be picked up from satellite! Then we conducted a quad bike expedition in September for ground trothing, and fine tuning and further detailed classification of the most important water holes, especially the ones closest to our already defined hotspots.

By the time we did the expedition, most water holes had dried out, while we experienced the first showers announcing the new rainy season. For this reason herds were not visiting the sites for drinking, and snare traps had already been removed. In any case, we were still in good time to evaluate the pre-identified water holes and to determine their importance and levels of threat. Over a few days and quad-biking in cross-country we visited 9 sites (of which only one was previously known by us), less than half than what we expected but we faced some contingency problems that forced us not to continue. Still, results were very promising and above expectations, and proving that we were on the right track. Two water holes, as also suggested by the sat imagery, had limited water retaining capacity and were downscaled as unimportant. Of the remaining seven sites, six (86%) had recent to not-too-old giant sable tracks. And four of those sites (57%) had serious and clear poaching signs. In three water holes we found large poles that had been used during the last dry season, for snares targeting sable and other large antelope. In one of these sites there was a skeleton of a reedbuck that had died maybe a month ago and in the meantime had been consumed by vultures and bushpigs.

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 200mts from the water hole. He was alone as his other two mates had gone out to poach with shotguns. There were a few freshly killed duikers from the previous day, but we were even more alarmed to find that the two absent poachers had gone in pursuit of a giant sable bull that had visited the site during the night and left unaware of the poachers’ presence. This was easily concluded by the fresh tracks and spoor on the scene. The poacher was arrested and delivered to the local authorities, and his bounty burned. Upon interrogation he confessed that he lives in village situated more than 100kms away, and they were a team of three and came in two bikes. 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.
This incident and some mechanical difficulties forced us abort the mission, as it would be too risky to try to reach some of the more remote sites. But the main objective had been achieved. We now hope to establish network surveillance next dry season, cleaning up and securing all major water holes in the key areas. And this may, hopefully and for the first time in many years, help to start turning the tables in our favor in the fight against poaching.

Unfortunately and much to our shock and disappointment, we learned later, that our poacher escaped detention within 24 hours of being arrested and delivered…

Another key milestone on this struggle may have been the renewed commitment from the FAA - Angolan Military Forces (army and air forces), who during October conducted a serious ground and aerial operation in Luando, aiming to serve as deterrent to poaching. For a few days they deployed teams patrolling the reserve, making local villagers aware of the importance to protect the giant sable, and sending the message that from now on, the military will be watchful to protect the national symbol. We collaborated with their initiative, and some awareness flyers and posters were produced and used to Luando. At the end of the operation no poachers had been caught but a clear statement was made.

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. And yet another worrying report was learning from the shepherds that the big lion was back in business, patrolling and hunting inside giant sable sensitive areas. After the helicopter incident in July he had left the scene for a few months, but finally returned.

To finalize on a positive note, by the end of year we received wonderful news that Toyota – Angola would be donating us a brand new Land Cruiser HZJ … in good time indeed!

Photos can be seen through the following link:

Best wishes,