Sable antelope

Hippotragus niger

TAXONOMY

Aigocerus niger (Harris, 1838), near Pretoria, South Africa. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Hippotrague noir; German: Rappenantilope; Spanish: Antilope sable.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length 6.3-8.5 ft (190-255 cm); shoulder height 3.9-4.7 ft (117-143 cm); tail 1.3-2.5 ft (40-75 cm); 420-660 lb (190-300 kg), female smaller than male. Horns 2.6-5.5 ft (80-165 cm) in males, 2-3.3 ft (60-100 cm) in females.

DISTRIBUTION

H. n. roosevelti: extreme southeastern Kenya through Tanzania; H. n. kirkii: Zambia, presumably eastern Angola and southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, also probably Malawi and Mozambique; H. n. niger: southwestern Zambia, north and northeast Botswana, Zimbabwe, and extreme northeastern South Africa, limits not clear; H. n. variani (giant sable): Angola, between Cuanza and Loando rivers.

HABITAT

Dry open woodlands and medium-tall grass savannas.

BEHAVIOR

Herds of up to 30 females and young have home range 59-198 acres (24-80 ha). Herds of 200-300 recorded in dry season. Bulls hold territories of 62-99 acres (25-40 ha).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Eats grasses; during the dry season will also browse on herbs, bushes, and trees. Drinks at least once a day.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygynous. Breeding seasonal, births occurring during rains. Gestation period about nine months; weaning at eight months; sexually mature at 2-3 years. Lifespan 17 years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Race variani is Critically Endangered: only about 1,000 remain, and their future is unpredictable; none are held in captivity. The other races are Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent. The wild population was believed stable at around 54,000 individuals in 1998, 75% of these in protected natural habitat.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Valued as a trophy species, also hunted for meat. ♦

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