John Frederick Walker

The Giant Sable remains endangered

Posted in Uncategorized by JFW on July 9, 2021
Vaz Pinto, on left, with wildlife vet Pete Morkel and a sedated giant sable. credit: Pedro Vaz Pinto

Ashley Stimpson’s recent, riveting reporting in Atlas Obscura focuses on biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto, who spearheaded efforts to save Angola’s walking emblem, the giant sable antelope. Against all odds, the 2009 expedition he headed to find and capture some to create a captive breeding herd, succeeded.

“Though Vaz Pinto has enjoyed many magical moments over the course of his 20-year mission to save the charismatic ungulate, the creature’s future remains fraught,” Stimpson writes. There are only about a hundred of them in Cangandala National Park, perhaps only 300 total in Angola, which is struggling economically, and poaching is on the rise as people struggle to survive.

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Diamond Mining Threatens Giant Sable Antelope

Posted in Uncategorized by JFW on March 13, 2013

The magnificent giant sable antelope, a critically endangered sable subspecies that happens to be the national animal of Angola, needs all the help it can get to survive. Only about a  hundred of these creatures are left.  Diamond mining in its long-isolated habitat could be the death-knell for this walking emblem.


Colin McClelland, reporter for Bloomberg News in Angola, has broken a story on state gem company Endiama EP, which had drawn up plans to expand diamond mining into the Luando Reserve, critical environment for the giant sable.  McClelland interviewed Endiama spokesman Antonio Freitas, who stated that “Endiama’s main goal is to protect the palanca negra [giant sable].”

Angolan biologist Pedro Vaz Pinto, who has rescued a small number of the animals for a captive breeding program nearby, says he’s encouraged by Endiama’s response, but warns that “a concession in that location must be blocked,” as it would result in roads, bridges, and camps being built in what is now undisturbed giant sable habitat.

Click here for a link to this story.

JFW Giant Sable antelope lecture at the Explorers Club

Posted in giant sable news by JFW on January 1, 2011

On January 10, 2011, I’ll be giving a presentation at the Explorers Club on the dramatic rescue of the critically endangered giant sable antelope of Angola.  I’ll be showing photographs I took from the expedition that succeeded in pulling this legendary creature back from the brink of oblivion—a conservation triumph.

Time:  6:00 pm

Place:  The Explorers Club, 46 East 70th Street, New York NY

The event is open to the public.  Full details here.

Giant Sable: Antelope from the Ashes, Part II

Posted in giant sable news by JFW on June 23, 2010

Part II of my  two-part series, “Antelope from the Ashes” has just come out in the July issue of Africa Geographic. Click here to read the final installment of my account of the dramatic rescue of Africa’s most spectacular antelope, Angola’s giant sable.

Icon on the Brink: Angola’s Giant Sable Antelope

Posted in giant sable news by JFW on April 15, 2009

Before I started writing about the fate of Africa’s elephants, I had been covering the tenuous future of another of Africa’s most endangered species: the giant sable antelope of Angola, long feared to have been wiped out in that country’s 27-year-long civil war (1975-2002).

I was on the first post-war expedition into Cangandala National Park, which uncovered evidence of the antelope’s survival. Last year I returned to the park to join a capture operation aiming to put the first radio collars on these spectacular creatures. My article on this attempt (”Icon on the Brink: Angola’s Giant Sable Antelope”) appears in the May/June 2009 Wildlife Conservation (sadly, the last issue of this 112-year old magazine). Please visit my nature page for a link to a PDF of the story.