Hippotragus niger 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Hippotragus niger (Harris, 1838)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Sable Antelope
French Hippotrague Noir
Spanish Antílope Sable Negro
Taxonomic Notes: Four subspecies are usually recognized: H. n. niger, H. n. kirkii, H. n. roosevelti and the isolated Giant Sable (H. n. variani) from Angola. As for many other antelope species, the validity and precise distribution of most of the described subspecies are uncertain. An extensive study of the geographical genetic structure of Hippotragus niger identified three genetic subdivisions representing a Kenya and east Tanzania clade (H. n. roosevelti), a west Tanzania clade (H. n. kirkii), and a southern African clade (H. n. niger) (Pitra et al. 2002).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-05-09
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M.
Sable Antelope is listed as Least Concern as Sable are currently estimated to number ca 75,000, and population trends are more or less stable in protected areas (ca 50%), increasing on private land (ca 25%) and decreasing elsewhere (ca 25%). The overall conservation status is unlikely to change, since any further decrease in the free-living population may be compensated by the continued growth of its numbers on private farms and conservancies. The latter should continue in view of this spectacular antelope’s aesthetic appeal and its high value as a trophy animal. Nonetheless, certain subpopulations remain vulnerable, in particular that of the Giant Sable (H. n. variani) in Angola.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Sable Antelope formerly occurred widely in the savanna woodlands of southern and eastern Africa, with an isolated population (Giant Sable) in central Angola. They have been eliminated from large areas of their former range by hunting and loss of habitat to the expansion of agricultural settlement and livestock (East 1999). This range reduction has been most marked in Mozambique, where they survive only in good numbers in Niassa in the north, and in the western Gaza province; southeast DR Congo; and north-east Tanzania (East 1999, Estes 2013). Sable have been reintroduced to many parts of their former range, but have also been introduced to areas where they never naturally occurred, including to Swaziland (East 1999).
Countries occurrence:
Angola; Botswana; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Summation of available population estimates gave a total population of about 54,000 Sable, but this does not allow for undercounting bias in aerial surveys or parts of the species’ range for which estimates of numbers are unavailable. East (1999) estimated the total population at 75,000, of which about half occurs in and around protected areas and one-quarter on private land. The largest populations were in Zimbabwe (>19,690), Tanzania (>10,680), Namibia (7,100) and Mozambique (4,270) (East 1999). The population in the Selous ecosystem probably represents the largest free-ranging population in Africa. Overall population trends were more or less stable in protected areas, increasing on private land and decreasing elsewhere (East 1999).

Foley et al. (2014) said that it is not threatened in Tanzania and estimated 3,400-5,500 in the Selous GR and Selous-Niassa corridor; ca 2,400 in Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem; ca 1,000 in Moyowosi GR (and stable for 30 years); with a few smaller populations elsewhere. Now rare in Kilombero Valley.

Like other ungulates of the miombo woodlands, the Sable occurs at low density in comparison with ungulate densities in semi-arid savanna. Wilson and Hirst (1977) estimated density at 4/km² in the Matetsi area of SW Zimbabwe, which they considered the best Sable habitat in southern Africa.

Giant Sable are estimated to number ca 100.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:50000-60000
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:A savanna woodland species, very closely associated with the miombo Brachystegia woodland zone. The Sable is an “edge” species that frequents the woodland/grassland ecotone; it spends the wet season in woods open enough to support an understory of grasses no more than 30 cm high on well-drained soils, and in the dry season emerges onto the grasslands in search of green grass and forbs (Estes 2013). They are both gramivorous and folivorous, although grass makes up the bulk of their diet (Estes 2013, and references therein).
Generation Length (years):7.1

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Sable are subject to hunting for meat and as trophies across their range. Unfortunately, now that peace has come to Angola, the possibility of unscrupulous trophy hunters prepared to pay almost any price to hunt Giant Sable is a real threat (Estes 1999).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Sable have been eliminated from large areas of their former range by hunting and loss of habitat to the expansion of agricultural settlement and livestock. Poaching and armed conflict have been a major threat, specially for the Giant Sable and Sable populations in Mozambique. Further decline in the distribution and numbers of the Sable Antelope may occur in the more northerly parts of its range in future, unless the expansion of human populations and livestock is countered by the implementation of higher levels of protection and management of wildlife in countries such as Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique (East 1999).

A former stronghold of Sable in N Botswana, near the Caprivi border, has been severely impacted by the construction of the Northern Buffalo Fence, which has affected their access to water, causing significant mortality (Estes 2013). Inbreeding, evidenced by increased calf mortality, is a major risk in many of the smaller, privately owned herds of Sable (Grobler and Van der Bank 1994). The survival of the Giant Sable through the Angolan civil war (1975-2002) is highly encouraging, but its survival remains precarious as many Angolans who fled the Luando Reserve during the mid-1970s flood back to areas they had formerly evacuated. There have been recent incidents of hybridization of Giant Sable with Roan Antelope in the Cangandala NP (Vaz Pinto 2006, Vaz Pinto et al. 2016).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Sable survive in good and generally stable numbers in areas such as Moyowosi-Kigosi, Katavi-Rukwa and the Ruaha and Selous ecosystems (Tanzania), Kafue (Zambia), Liwonde (Malawi), Okavango and Chobe (Botswana), Hwange, Matetsi, Sebungwe and the Middle Zambezi Valley (Zimbabwe) (East 1999). The population in Kruger NP (South Africa) has been in decline (Grant and Van der Walt 2000). In addition, there are relatively large, increasing numbers on private farms and conservancies in Namibia (extralimital), Zimbabwe and South Africa (East 1999). Of the total Sable population estimated by East (1999), about half were estimated to occur in and around protected areas.

Sable Antelopes have been reintroduced to many parts of their former range, but have also been introduced to areas where they never naturally occurred, including Swaziland (Mkhaya Private Reserve; Monadjem 1998), widely on private farmland and to the Waterberg Plateau Park in Namibia, and various provinces in South Africa (Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape) (East 1999, Estes 2013).

Luando Reserve and Cangandala N.P. are the essential strongholds for Giant Sable (East 1999).

Sable are held in captivity, although no individuals of the Giant Sable subspecies are held captive.

Giant Sable (Hippotragus niger variani) is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2017. Hippotragus niger. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T10170A50188654. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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