A truly good-looking member of the bovidae family is the sable antelope (Hippotragus niger). Mature males are a striking jet-black in colour, with long ridged horns curving towards their backs, ending in smooth sharp tips (Mills and Hess, 1997). Although slightly smaller than the closely related Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), they weigh in at an average of 230 kg, standing about 1.35 m tall at the shoulder (Wilson and Herst, 1977; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005).
This mammal species inhabit open wooded savannah, preferably close a water source (Mills and Hess, 1997; Thompson and Monfort, 1999). Male sable antelope are predominantly solitary, whilst females are found in small herds consisting of a dominant female and recent offspring (although sometimes accompanied by a single male), whereas young males often travel in small bachelor herds (Jarman, 1974). They are predominantly grazers, feeding on fresh growth at a relatively high level off the ground (Wilson and Herst, 1977; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005).
Females are sexually mature around 2 years of age and reproduction occurs when food is most abundant, with females typically leaving the herd to calve (Skinner and Chimimba, 2005). There is a loose association between mothers and calves, with mothers often travelling up to 2 km away from the young, hidden foal, but the cryptic coloration and lack of odour serves to make the foal almost invisible during this vulnerable period of its life (Wilson and Herst, 1977).
Their distribution ranges from central Tanzania, down to the north of South Africa and extends west to the south-eastern corners of Angola (for map, see http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=10170). They are listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with large numbers reported in protected areas. There is an estimated 75,000 wild sable antelope, with numbers increasing on private game farms and conservancies.
- Jarman, P. J. 1974. The social organisation of antelope in relation to their ecology. 48, 215-267.
- Mills, G. and Hes, L. 1997. The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Joyce, P. Reid, H., Barrett, J. and Lubbe, E (eds.), 1st ed., Struik Publishers, Cape Town, p. 205.
- Skinner, D. and Chimimba, C. T. 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Van der Horst, D. (ed.), 3rd ed., Cambridge University Press, Cape Town, pp. 412-416.
- Thompson, K. V. and Monfort, S. L. 1999. Synchronisation of oestrous cycles in sable antelope. Anim. Reprod. Sci. 57, 185-197.
- Wilson, D. E. and Herst, S. M. 1977. Ecology and factors limiting roan and sable antelope populations in South Africa. Wildlife Monogr. 54, 3-111.