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02. Palanca Report 2nd Quarter

Dear friends,

The second quarter always marks the transition from the end of the rainy season into the dry season. It is never a period that I look forward to, usually with too much water in April and too much grass in May and only improving a bit well into June. This is however the time when sable calves, with calving peak typically reached in May. Therefore it is hardly surprising that it tends to be very difficult to approach and observe the animals in these months. To make things worse, the abnormally generous rainy season of 2015/2016 in Cangandala and Luando, made conditions even harder with very wet conditions in May and an ocean of tall unhospitable grass right to the end of June. And if this wasn’t enough the old radio-tracking VHF antenna fell apart and it became pointless to try monitoring the sable on the ground.

Instead we focused on various other activities, supporting management components in Cangandala such as repairing the water hole system and start building a new fenced sanctuary, which will be destined in the future to contain bulls for tourism visits.

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The animals were simply monitored indirectly in Cangandala via the trap camera records as usual. Ivan the Terrible was recorded again, marking the territory outside the sanctuary, and at one stage the rangers on patrol reported to have seen Ivan once accompanied by a sole female… he doesn’t seem to enjoy too much the company of females, as he has ignored plenty of opportunities to lead herds, and until now had never been seen near a cow… but we can only assume that being a loner doesn’t make him less of a bull and hopefully the now lonely female will bear his seed!

Inside the sanctuary the most striking records reflect a steep increase in the number of young males. Apollo, just a few months younger than Mercury is back and might soon be a real challenger for the dominant bull role. A bachelor herd was also recorded with three 2-year old young males (young males between 2 and 3 years old tend to abandon the comfort of their herds and wonder off forming bachelor herds of males before establishing territories later in life and then challenging mature bulls), and plenty of male yearling and male calves. Mercury’s succession is guaranteed, but we can also expect that the rise in testosterone inside the sanctuary will result in more conflicts, fence challenging and possibly some injuries and deaths of inexperienced bulls. The plan eventually is to remove some of these males to the new sanctuary, as soon as it is finished.

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In Luando Reserve a few things have shown progress, but there are a lot of worrying signs suggesting increase in poaching, and we lack updated hard data on the condition and status of different herds. One positive development was the support received in previous months by Angolan military, which has very much boosted the confidence on the shepherds and allow them to make more patrols and to penetrate deeper into less covered areas. There were a couple of incidents reported of encounters with poachers, and on one of them there were several shots fired, and it ended with a shotgun and an Ak-47 apprehended. On a sad note, some shepherds reported encountering an injured female with a severe leg wound, possibly amputated. They could not see ear tags so it is possible that she was an unmarked female and another recent victim of a snare or foot trap. The shepherds also claimed that the poor female was accompanied by a small calf which would be consistent with a very recent incident.

The next quarter will be crucial as we are preparing for another capture operation, designed to put collars in animals in Cangandala and Luando, but also to make an updated aerial census of herds in Luando Reserve and, with assistance from military, to support anti-poaching activities also in Luando.

Best wishes,

Pedro

Photos can be seen in the following link:
https://picasaweb.google.com/113384424565470443034/6309025463335166961?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCPDKnZeXw7jz-gE&feat=directlink

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