Wildlife of Angola
Endangered giant sable antelope of Angola
Angola’s protracted war has had a catastrophic effect on the country’s wildlife. Forty years ago, thousands of animals roamed the fertile bushland of Quiçama. But over the years, the animals fell prey to landmines, ivory-stalking poachers and hungry locals. Many animals were slaughtered by the country’s military, which used low-flying helicopters to take pot shots at big game.
In the Quitçama National Park in the Kwanza River Valley, Angola’s military are trying to reintroduce elephants, antelope and other species that once roamed the country’s 10 national parks before the civil war. Quiçama spans nearly 10,000 km² about 75 kilometres south of Luanda, the country’s capital. Backed by a privately funded, $10 million (U.S.) project, the generals are working with South African wildlife experts to revive Angola’s wildlife, beginning with the Quiçama Park.
Although the southwest of the country is arid, taken overall, Angola is amongst the wettest of countries in Southern Africa; large areas in the north receive more than 1500 mm of rain/yr, spread over a long wet season.Much of the interior is characterised by gently undulating land between rivers, and in these places drainage is poor. Numerous dambos and some extensive swamps and marshes characterise these areas. Some of thesesystems include groups of small endorheic lakes. In other places drainage occurs from these swamps to local rivers, but in a rather diffuse fashion. Riparian strip swamps occur along some of the major rivers, or they may have narrow, but often very long, floodplains. These wetlands are dealt with by river systems or regions. Extensive plateau floodplains, such as occur in neighbouring Zambia, are developed only on the Cunene River, and with different character on the Cuanza River. Permanent swamps also occur along the upper reaches of the Cuanza and its tributaries. Strips of tall swampy forest are found along all rivers flowing into the Zaire Basin in North Lunda Province. The coastal plain from Lobito northwards is traversed by many streams with floodplains and dependent lagoonal systems. Mangroves occur on the coast as far south as Lobito, and there are extensive saltmarshes in some sites south of this. Sponges abound in the mountains and provide the sources of many rivers.
Angola wildlife has been severely affected by the country’s long civil war, and poaching, land-mines and even hungry locals have seen a marked decrease in many game species.
Efforts are currently underway to replenish wildlife in Angola – in particular in the Quiçama National Park in the Kwanza River Valley. Slowly, conservation efforts are beginning to take shape.
Covering all of central Angola and extending into the Democratic Republic of Congo, the extensive Angolan Miombo Woodlands are part of an even larger miombo ecosystem that covers much of eastern and southern Africa. The miombo is characterized by several unique ecological factors, including its propensity to burn, the importance of termites, and the unusual browsing conditions found here.
The Giant Sable Antelope, Hippotragus niger variani, also known in Portuguese as the Palanca Negra Gigante, is a large, rare subspecies of Sable Antelope native and endemic to the region between Cuango and Luando Rivers in Angola.
There was a great degree of uncertainty regarding the number of animals that survived during the Angolan civil war. In January 2004, a group from the Centro de Estudos e Investigação Científica (CEIC) of the Catholic University of Angola (UCAN), led by Dr. Pedro vaz Pinto, was able to obtain photographic evidence of one of the remaining herds from a series of trap cameras installed in the National Park of Cangandala, south of Malanje.
The Giant Sable Antelope is held in a great deal of respect by the country and people of Angola. This may be one of the reasons they survived the long civil war. In African mythology, just like other antelopes, they symbolize vivacity, velocity, beauty and visual sharpness.
The rare giant sable antelope (Hippotragus niger varianien), unique to Angola and feared extinct after almost three decades of civil war, has survived.
A majestic but notoriously skittish beast, the ‘Palanca Negra’ is informally regarded as the country’s national animal. The striking curved horns of the adult male, which can grow up to 165 cm long, appear on the logo of Angola’s national airline and football team.
Giant Sable, which are unique to Angola, are primarily located in the Luando Strict Nature Reserve and the Cangandala National Park. Although the Luando Reserve was established in 1938, it was only raised to its present status in 1955 as an area “… under the direction and control of public authorities for the total protection of wild fauna and flora”. This Reserve lies in the Malanje province and is approximately 8 280 km2 in size. For 240 km of its length, it is bounded by the Cuanza and Luando rivers.
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