News - 2010
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Roadmap laid for conservation of sable antelopes

Date Published: 12 Jul, 2010
Roadmap laid for conservation of sable antelopes

The sable antelope. Their numbers have declined considerably in its former range in the last 30 years and is only found in Shimba Hills National Reserve at the Coast. Currently, the population is estimated to be only 70.

Sable antelopes have been eliminated from large areas of their former range due to a combination of factors. These include disease, drought-caused food shortages, and habitat loss and degradation compounded by inter-species competition. Subsistence hunting poses an additional threat and its powerful stature and imposing horns have also made this species a prized trophy animal to many big-game hunters.
There are five sable antelope sub-species in Africa. The giant sable (Hippotragus niger varianien) occurs in Angola; the southern sable (Hippotragus niger niger,) occurs in Namibia, Northern Botswana, South of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe and Transvaal in the Republic of South Africa. In the north of Zambezi in Zambia, Western Tanzania and eastern Angola, occurs Kirk's sable (Hippotragus niger kirkii,). Occurring in Zambia east of the Muchinga escarpment, along the east side of Lake Malawi and into the southern tip of Tanzania is the recently described sub-species (Hippotragus niger anselli,). Along Northern Tanzania and the Kenya coastal hinterland occurs the Roosevelt sable (Hippotragus niger roosevelti). 
In Kenya, the sable antelope has declined considerably in its former range in the last 30 years and is only found in Shimba Hills National Reserve at the Coast. Currently, the population is estimated to be 70. This is an alarming decline compared to 265 individuals in 1960. This sub-species coastal range used to extend as far north as Mwangea Hill near Malindi and as far south as Mrima Hill near the Tanzania border. As such sable antelopes are of considerable conservation concern at the national level in Kenya because, within their ‘natural range’ their numbers are low (far lower than in the recent past); population is dwindling and localized.

In recognition of the threats facing the remaining population of sable antelopes in Shimba Hills, Kenya Wildlife Service found it prudent to initiate a conservation planning process for them. A national sable antelope conservation task force is championing the process of developing a national conservation strategy for sable antelopes and held the first meeting in May 2010 to chart the way for the strategy. 
-The writer is a Senior Scientist, Species Management and Conservation, at the Kenya Wildlife Service