Not just a pretty face
Named for its dark, black coat, the sable antelope is an extraordinary looking antelope that inhabits the grasslands and savannahs of southeastern Africa. Although not considered endangered, the sable has been eliminated from large areas of its native range due to habitat loss, disease, and drought. With growing human populations, scientists predict the sable antelope will become increasingly threatened by loss of habitat. Due to a rigid social dominance structure, sable antelope are notoriously difficult to maintain and breed in captivity. Their aggressive nature is aggravated in confined enclosures, which limits the extent to which this species can be displayed in zoos.
Conservation in action
In nature, perhaps as much as 75% of the wild sable antelope live in protected habitats or on private land, which helps stabilize the population. Because of its charisma and attractiveness to conservationists and ecotourists, there is a growing need to increase numbers of this species through reintroduction in Africa. This includes releasing animals from new genetic stocks.
Collectively, the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2) has decades of expertise managing and breeding sable antelope. This species thrives in the large pastures available at C2S2 institutions. The sable antelope is a priority species because of the need to grow and stabilize a North American security population useful for public awareness and increasing biological knowledge that would be impossible to collect from free-living animals. There is also growing interest in the production of individuals representing new genetic lines that would be suitable for reintroduction into appropriate habitats in southern Africa. Additionally, the sable antelope is one of four ungulates involved in explorations of novel, alternative strategies for maintaining self-sustaining captive populations. The outcomes of this work have the potential of changing the way we think about and manage many endangered species.