ANGOLA: Giant Sable Report 2016

Palanca Report 1st Trimester - 2016

Dear friends,

The 2015 El Niño was being responsible for an extreme drought condition across southern Africa, particularly in Mozambique and South Africa, but in many parts of Angola if anything it’s been the opposite. At least in Cangandala this rainy season has been quite generous, causing over flooding of rivers and constraining so much our movements that in the first trimester we could only access the park between late January and early February, following a short break in the rains. The rare break allowed us to carry out several activities in the park, reaching for example all the trap cameras. However, and quite exceptionally, this time we couldn’t even approach the giant sable inside the sanctuary, much less see them or photograph them. With few roads at our disposal, we’re often forced to track the animals driving cross country, but this just looked like a terrible idea with waterlogged soils and under threatening skies, and eventually we dropped those efforts. And tracking the animals on foot wouldn’t make much sense either, they would feel chased and not much to gain from it… Instead I spent extra time looking for birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects, while enjoying some photography.

Without being able to track and monitor the animals on the ground, we had to settle with inferring the dynamics from the trap camera record, 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. Still, the vast majority featured giant sable and hybrids inside the sanctuary. Many interesting photos were recorded, allowing us to keep track with well-known animals, but no surprises noted inside the sanctuary where all seems to be going nicely. More calves, plenty of healthy females and Mercury dominating the pure herds. All good here!

On the other hand there was a big surprise waiting for us on photos taken outside the sanctuary, which was the resurfacing of Ivan the Terrible. Yes, the crowd’s favourite is alive and back! He had last been recorded in November 2014, and considering the long absence and the high level of poaching in his territory, we speculated that he had probably been killed. He used to visit the salt licks somewhat irregularly but at least every few weeks. The only exception was between June and December 2013 when he went missing while fighting for his life after being caught in a snare trap. Throughout 2014 we were able to observe monthly his steady recovery, as he was slowly regaining some of his former physical strength, before disappearing again. He surely wouldn’t survive another poaching incident… Well, Ivan is now back with us! In the last three months of record he was photographed on five independent occasions. The reasons for his latest long absence are simply unknown, but he seems to be in good physical shape. Maybe it was just his crazy nature that led him to go wondering for so many months, may have decided to take a sabbatical year… Anyway it was a positive development, and we’re looking forward for his future adventures.

We now have ambitious plans for the remaining of 2016, but these will only be disclosed in subsequent reports.

Best wishes,


Photos can be seen in the following link: