Hippotragus niger ssp. variani 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Hippotragus niger ssp. variani Thomas, 1916
Parent Species:
Common Name(s):
English Giant Sable
French Hippotrague Géant de L'Angola, Hippotrague Noir Géant
Spanish Antílope Sable Negro
Taxonomic Notes: Giant Sable is isolated from the main populations of the species and has traditionally been regarded as a separate subspecies. Confirmation of its status through genetic analysis is desirable.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-08-07
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M.
Contributor(s): Vaz Pinto, P.
Giant Sable is listed as Critically Endangered because the population is estimated to be well below the threshold of 250 mature individuals and no subpopulation contains more than 50 mature individuals. The Giant Sable faces several continuing threats including poaching and snaring and hybridization with roan antelope Hippotragus equinus has also occurred in recent years.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Giant Sable occur in central Angola, between the Cuanza and Luando Rivers and immediately north of the Luando.

For the distribution map, see the species level assessment: Hippotragus niger.
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There were an estimated 2,000-3,000 Giant Sable in the late 1960s (Estes and Estes 1974, East 1999). Numbers have since been greatly reduced and by 2007 were estimated at 200-400 (P. vaz Pinto in litt. to ASG, 2007). The decline has continued and there are now only ca 40 in Cangandala National Park and perhaps <50 in Luando Reserve (P. vaz Pinto, pers. comm. December 2015).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:70-100Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Giant Sable prefers miombo woodland; it also occurs in low hills along the Cuanza River in Luando Reserve (Estes 2013).
Generation Length (years):7.1

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Giant Sable is subject to poaching for meat. Illegal capture and transport for wildlife ranching remains a constant threat, given the high price that any specimens would command.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The survival of the Giant Sable through more than 20 years of civil war 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. Poaching and snaring are ongoing in Luando Reserve. There have been recent incidents of hybridization of Giant Sable with Roan Antelope in Cangandala NP (Vaz Pinto 2006). Illegal capture and transport for wildlife ranching remains a constant threat, given the high price that any specimens would command.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Luando Reserve and Cangandala National Park are the two essential strongholds for Giant Sable (East 1999). There have been calls for the establishment of a Giant Sable National Park to encompass both these protected areas (Walker 2002).

No individuals of Giant Sable are held in captivity. Giant Sable is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):91-100
  Area based regional management plan:No
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%)   
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.2. Unintentional effects (species is not the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%)   
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.1. Taxonomy
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

East, R. (compiler). 1999. African Antelope Database 1998. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Estes, R. D. 2013. Hippotragus niger. In: J. S. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa. VI. Pigs, Hippopotamuses, Chevrotain, Giraffes, Deer, and Bovids, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK.

Estes, R. D. and Estes, R. K. 1974. The biology and conservation of the giant sable, Hippotragus niger variani Thomas, 1916. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 26: 73-104.

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-2. Available at: (Accessed: 14 September 2017).

Vaz Pinto, P. 2006. Hybridization in Giant Sable: a conservation crisis in a critically endangered Angolan icon. IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group Gnusletter 25(2): 14-16.

Walker, J. F. 2002. A Certain Curve of Horn: the 100-year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope in Angola. Atlantic Monthly Press, New York.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2017. Hippotragus niger ssp. variani. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T10169A50188611. . Downloaded on 21 May 2018.
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