Sables, Sables &…………….SABLES!

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Haven’t visited this in a while so just wanna say thanks to all of you who still visit my blog 😛

I probably use Instagram more (Follow me at voodoodles). Anyways, my love for Sable continues 😀

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Sable

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Just some sketches I did whilst revising for finals 😛

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JV.

The Giant Sable Antelope

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Giant Sable Antelope (Hippotragus Niger Variani)

So, it’s been a while hasn’t it??? I just want to thank those of you (if any) who still come to my blog. lol! Anyways, I’ve suddenly had the inspiration to write again..

As some of you may know, the antelopes of the natural world have always had a soft spot in my heart. It might be because of the grace and poise they carry themselves with. Or how they, as with all herbivores, always seem to be the underdogs of the animal kingdom.  I’ve always been particularly fascinated with the Hippotraginae family, primarily with the Sables. It’s probably because of this that I’ve never really tried to write anything about them. There’s just so much I would like to say! About how they (antelopes in general) are always overlooked when it comes to conservation efforts etc. and the fact that it’s commonly assumed that their primary role in live is to be part of a predator’s menu. Tell me; how many people can say they’ve heard of a hirola, Lichenstein Hartebeest or the Black-Faced Impala. So anyways, I decided to give it a shot and write about one of my personal favourites; The Giant Sable.

The Giant Sable Antelope is the national emblem of Angola and is commonly seen printed on Angolan banknotes, stamps and even passports. Even the Angolan national football team is named after this animal; Palancas Negras. However, the irony lies in the fact that probably a majority of the population have never laid their eyes on a living, breathing specimen. This does not come as a surprise considering that the Giant Sable is currently listed as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN.

Perhaps it is quite safe to say that the Giant Sable is probably one of the least known large mammals of Africa. It is found only in Angola, endemic to the region between Cuango and Luando rivers where it usually inhabits the miombo woodlands. It is a subspecies of the common sable antelope, which contradictory to its name, is not as common as some might think.  As with most antelope species, both sexes of the Giant Sable bear horns and these can be especially impressive on the bulls. Ridged and curved backwards, they can reach up to 5 feet in length. Bulls are usually darker in coloration, achieving jet black when they fully mature. It is part of the Hippotragus family where in Greek, ‘Hippo’ means horse and ‘Tragus’ means goat. This is an apt description of the Giant Sable as it seems to have features of both animals. The Sable Antelope is famous for being notoriously aggressive, at least within the antelope kingdom, where flight is usually the main line of defense. They frequently back themselves against bushes and then sweep its curved horns back and forth whilst on its knees in an attempt to deter a predator. Sables have even been known to repel lion attacks.

The Giant Sable’s history has been fraught with peril. Sought after by trophy hunters upon its discovery, it was then trapped in a 27-year civil war where it served as bush meat to the armies. As such, fears of it being wiped out are not unfounded until recently. The saying that “every cloud has a silver lining” seems to be true as a small population of these animals was found in the early 2000s. Subsequently, a programme was launched to monitor these animals in hopes of protecting the handful of survivors from poaching. This was achieved through a combination of traditional tracking methods on foot as well as the use of high-tech camera traps. Just when it seems like there’s hope, the cameras reveal a worrying sign. Hybridization. Due to the lack of prime Giant Sable bulls from poaching, it seems like the females are mating with Roan Antelope bulls, a cousin of the Giant Sable and member of the Hippotraginae.

So one may think; what is so important about the Giant Sable when there’s other stuff to care about? Just in case the words “Critically Endangered” do not mean anything, this antelope is finding itself on the verge of extinction once again. Other than threats of poaching, the fact that Angola is the world’s fifth largest diamond producer means that there is constant pressure for mining. This means a lessening of the already dwindling habitat preferred by the animal. Furthermore, with the dangers of hybridization looming, it is feared that the pure line of Giant Sable would be lost gradually. As of March 2013, there is an estimate of only a hundred individuals left. This cycle of Giant Sable recovery and then finding itself on the verge of extinction once more has to end. If recent news are what we have to go by, then it seems highly likely that the cycle will indeed come to an end, and it’s not favourable for the Giant Sable.

Despite efforts from the Angolan authorities to protect them, there is just not enough word out there about the Giant Sable. More often than not, it finds itself lost in the shuffle to the big-shots of the animal kingdom, specifically when it comes to conservation efforts. Even books that list the most endangered species seem ignorant of its existence. To end, it does not really matter whether one can a make a difference to the survival of a species or not. What’s most important here is about being aware. Ignorance is definitely not bliss. Who knows what we can do for the Giant Sable other than the occasional donation? (Google Tusk-Trust) Even I am unsure of what I can do to help other than to spread word about its existence. What I’m hoping to achieve through this piece is not a revolutionary work that will garner support and somehow miraculously, swing the tide in favour of the Giant Sable. All I know is that if people don’t know about something, then there’s nothing they can do about it. So, hopefully, through this article, each time Africa comes to mind; remember that it’s not only lions, elephants and rhinos that need our help. There’s an animal out there that needs just as much help as they do. The Giant Sable Antelope.

Anyways, here’s a pic of my Sable collectibles! Lol! Yeah, still a child no? There are 3 Giant Sables and 1 Common Sable, 3 bulls and a cow. Guess which’s which?

Sables!

JV.

Antelopes A-B-C: Lesser Kudu (Ammelaphus Imberbis)

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Contrary to most species of antelopes, only the male Lesser Kudus bear horns which grow up to 2 to 3 feet long.  The Lesser kudu is active primarily at night and early morning. They are native to East Africa and usually inhabit dry thorn brushes and forests. They fall prey to lions, leopards and Cape Hunting dogs.

As its name suggests, the Lesser Kudu is smaller than its larger cousin, the Greater Kudu, and stands approximately 90-110 cm at shoulder height. Other than that, the Lesser Kudu also differs from its cousin in terms of the stripes on its body. The stripes of the Lesser Kudu are more obvious and there are usually 10 stripes on both sexes. Also, unlike the Greater Kudu, which is one of the slower antelopes, the Lesser Kudu can run up to speeds of 62 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest antelopes.

The Lesser Kudu was also once introduced in the Arabian Peninsula where they were a favourite for trophy hunters. Despite being classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN, these graceful antelopes are in decline.  

JV.

What’s Their Difference?

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I have had a lot of people asking me what is the difference between cheetahs, leopards and jaguars. Now, I don’t want to sound as if I know everything about these majestic cats, simply because I don’t. So I’d try my best to explain the differences between them from my own knowledge.

To identify the differences between these cats, it’s always easier to start with the similarities. The biggest similarity that all 3 of them have is that all of them are spotted!

However, our first difference starts here.

  • Cheetahs have solid black spots all over their body.
  •  Leopards, on the other paw, have rosettes similar to that of a jaguar’s, but are smaller and more densely packed.
  • Finally, Jaguars have small dots and irregular markings within larger, dark rosettes.

Another difference between these felines would be their habitat.

  • Cheetahs and Leopards are both found in Africa while the Jaguar is native to South America.
  •  Despite being from the same continent, cheetahs prefer open savannah grasslands where their speed can be fully utilized.
  • Leopards prefer wooded scrub where there is plentiful cover and trees for them to hunt prey. The Leopard is probably the most widespread of the 3, being found in India, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.
  •  Jaguars live in the Amazon rainforest.

Hunting technique can also be used to differentiate these cats.

  • Cheetahs, being land’s fastest mammal, is naturally a sprinter and can run up to speeds of 70 miles per hour. Their favourite prey is the Thompson’s Gazelle. Furthermore, cheetahs prefer to hunt in midday where other large predators are mostly sleeping.  By doing so, they minimize the likelihood of them losing prey to stronger rivals.
  • Leopards are masters of stealth, preferring to stalk their prey as close as possible before striking. There are also cases where leopards attack prey from above, using trees as a height advantage. They are nocturnal cats.
  • The Jaguar, the largest of all three, has the strongest jaws of all big cats. They hunt a variety of prey such as peccaries, capybaras and caimans.

Finally, the way these cats are built can also be used to differentiate them.

  • Cheetahs are the slimmest of all being built for speed.
  • Leopards are stockier than cheetahs.
  • Jaguars are the largest of all 3. As mentioned above, they have the strongest bite of all big cats, usually killing prey with a bite to the skull.

Hopefully the pictures below would make the differences between these cats more obvious.

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Jaguar

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Leopard

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Cheetah

JV.

 

 

 

Painted Horses of Africa

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Hey guys!

So, I’ve decided to make my next entry a little more interactive and it is dedicated specially to my housemate!

The zebra is an iconic animal found only in Africa. Its gentle appearance and striking stripe pattern has made it into a household favourite for both young and old.

Here are some fun facts about zebras:

1)      They are actually black with white stripes rather than the popular belief of them being white and having black stripes.

2)      Each zebra’s stripe pattern is unique to it as fingerprints are unique to us.

3)      There is no truly domesticated zebra!

4)      Zebra means ‘striped donkey’ in Swahili. 

5)      There are three types of zebras; the Plains zebra, the Grevy’s Zebra and the Mountain Zebra.

Okay, now to the interactive section!

I’m sure all of you would know how a zebra looks like but what of the 3 different species? I would be giving a brief description of each species and all you guys have to do is to identify them to the pictures below!

The Grevy’s Zebra is the largest of all 3 species and it has the thinnest stripes of all. It is also known as the Imperial Zebra. Unlike other zebras, the stallions do not travel in herds with the mares. Instead, the males guard a territory of their own while the females travel freely in small groups, staying in areas with best feeding grounds and accessibility to water. Of all 3 species, this zebra looks most like the donkey.

The Mountain Zebra is found in south western Angola, Namibia and South Africa. It has thinner stripes as its Plains cousin but not as thin as the Grevy’s. Unlike the Grevy’s zebra, these zebras do form small family groups, consisting of the dominant stallion, several mares and their young. The Mountain zebra also has a dewlap, a flap of skin hanging under its neck.

The Plains Zebra is the most widespread of all and can still be found in large numbers. They are most famously pictured as annual migrants from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Masai Mara and back, following the annual rains. They frequently travel with large herds of wildebeest, depending on the many senses to seek out potential threats. These zebras are also known as common zebras or Burchell’s zebras.

Pictures:

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Just say which zebra is in which picture in the comments section below! 

I’ll be revealing the answers a week from now!

JV.

My Sketches: African Antelopes

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Gemsbok ( Oryx Gazella)

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Springbok (Antidorcas Marsupialis)

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Roan Antelope (Hippotragus Equinus)

Here are some sketches I did recently.

JV.