The Sable Antelope is one of the most beautiful and regal looking of all the antelope. It has a powerful, robust build and a thick neck outlined by a vertical mane atop sturdy legs. Males and females are strikingly similar until 3 years old, when males become darker and develop majestic horns.
Sable Antelope were widespread in the bushveld areas of the Transvaal. In the 1940′s it was estimated that there were over 36,000 Sable Antelope in the lowveld outside the Kruger National Park. Today there are less than 200 sable left in the Kruger National Park! The conservation and study of this species is a priority.
On the 5th February 2002, four sable (three females, one male) arrived at Johannesburg International Airport, a donation from Blijdorp Zoo, Rotterdam, Netherlands. They were transported to Graspan, near Kimberley, where they formed the nucleus of a breeding unit that will be used to stock various parks in South Africa where numbers of this species have dwindled. Two further groups from Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic (May 2002) and Marwell in the UK (June 2003) were imported bringing the total number imported to ten individuals.
Eleven calves have been born to date. Four animals from this project were released into the Mapungupwe National park in June 2006. They have been fitted with GPS collars and are being monitored on a daily basis to study their adaptability back to the wild.
The Sable breeding project at Graspan, is a South African National Parks special species breeding facility. SANParks also has a roan, buffalo and quagga breeding project at Graspan. This is a unique example of co-operation between Zoological Institutions and in situ conservation projects in Africa
African tribes believed the Sable to be a symbol of the unity of nature and the duality of life – of light and of darkness, the fierce and yet graceful, the strong and yet delicate, the sable was the embodiment of living duality.
In days gone by, on the open African plains, people would ululate and sing with joy, should they come across a Sable, as this was a sure sign that good fortune was on its way and the darkness was moving on.
This animal was treated with such reverence that only kings were allowed to sit on the skins of this animal, and only those that could see into the future were allowed to own the horns of this great antelope. The Sable was so revered that it was only allowed to be hunted once every 5 years and even then, only an old adult bull was allowed to be killed.