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
Species Authority: (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: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
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, increasing on private land and decreasing elsewhere (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 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, between the Cuanza and Luando Rivers and immediately north of the Luando. They have been eliminated from large areas of their former range by meat 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 in press). 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 (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 gives 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 population in the Selous ecosystem probably represents the largest free-ranging population in Africa. Overall population trends are more or less stable in protected areas, increasing on private land and decreasing etsewhere (East 1999).

Total numbers of the Giant Sable surviving are estimated (2007) at 200-400 (P. vaz Pinto in litt to ASG, 2007).

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 African.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
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 in press). They are both gramivorous and folivorous, although grass makes up the bulk of their diet (Estes in press, and references therein).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Sable have been eliminated from large areas of their former range by meat 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 (H. n. variani) 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).

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. There have been recent incidents of hybridization of Giant Sable with Roan Antelope in the Cangandala N.P. (Vaz Pinto 2006).

Inbreeding, evidenced by increased calf mortality, is a major risk in many of the smaller, privately owned herds (Grobler and van der Bank 1994).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Sable sunrvive 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 N.P. (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).

Luando Reserve and Cangandala N.P. are the 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).

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

Hippotragus niger variani is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.5. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.4. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.4. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.2. War, civil unrest & military exercises
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Sport hunting/specimen collecting
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

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.

Grobler, J. P. and Van der Bank, F. H. 1994. Genetic heterogeneity in sable antelope (Hippotragus niger Harris 1838) from four southern African regions. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 22: 781-789.

Pitra, C. , Hansen, A. J., Lieckfeldt, D. and Arctander, P. 2002. An exceptional case of historical outbreeding in African sable antelope populations. Molecular Ecology 11: 1197-1208.

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.

Wilson, D. E. and Hirst, S. 1977. Ecology and factors limiting roan and sable antelope populations in South Africa. Wildlife Monographs 54: 1-109.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2008. Hippotragus niger. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T10170A3179828. . Downloaded on 22 August 2017.
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