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There’s a very good chance that when you visit Summerplace Game Reserve, you will encounter Sable Antelope. This regal buck with its beautifully arced horns is considered a very marginal species in this area, with survival not guaranteed. However, the Sable at Summerplace appear to be flourishing. Here’s why.

“Of the more than 40 large mammal species at Summerplace, Sable is definitely the most marginal. They may have occurred in the area in the past and if they did, it would have been a scattered population with low numbers,” said John Mackie, Summerplace Conservation Director.

“In order to introduce Sable to Summerplace, we needed to start with a herd that was adapted to this environment. We managed to locate a herd not too far from Summerplace. The farmer told us that he lost many animals over the years in his efforts to introduce Sable to the area,” explained Mackie.

“We purchased the entire herd, which numbered 32 animals, including three breeding bulls. It has a nice and diverse gene pool and was well adapted to the region,” added Mackie.

Photo: Josh Baber

Sable are more suited to grassy woodland areas in South Africa, such as the Mopane Woodland in the northern Kruger National Park and the Limpopo River basin. The Waterberg is largely Bushveld and therefore doesn’t provide the ideal habitat for Sable.

“But, as we have come to discover, Summerplace isn’t a typical Waterberg reserve and the Sable seem to have settled in very well. We have seen some young additions and we also recently introduced at new, younger breeding bull to Summerplace,” said Mackie.

The Sable is a large antelope, standing 117–140 cm tall. The bulls weigh about 235kg and females about 220kg. It has a compact and robust build, characterised by a thick neck and tough skin. It has a well-developed and often upright mane on its neck, as well as a short mane on the throat. Its general colouration is rich chestnut to black. Females and juveniles are chestnut to dark brown, while males begin darkening and turn black after three years. However, in southern populations, such as that at Summerplace, females have a brown to black coat. The Afrikaans name for Sable is Swartwitpens, which roughly translates to black with white stomach.

The Sable is a grazer and a browser. During the rainy season  it feeds on the grasses and foliage of woodlands, and in the dry season it emerges onto grasslands where it concentrates on green leaves after. It is water-dependent and visits pools and pans daily in the dry season.

Photo: Josh Baber

The Sable is a sociable and territorial antelope. Herds of females and young numbering up to 70 live in ranges of 10-50 square kilometres. Herds frequently break up into smaller units of variable composition and may remain separated for long intervals. The main predator of Sable is Leopard. Adult Sable are generally too large and formidable for leopards, but calves and yearlings are vulnerable.

“The Sable were among the first purchased game to arrive when we created a game reserve. They have been here for more than two years now and appear to be thriving.  We started with 32 and now have more than 50. They are obviously getting the right kind of grazing as we have a mixture of grasses here at Summerplace, but we did purchase a herd that was already adapted to this region, so are pleased with how they have settled here,” said David Baber, co-owner of Summerplace Game Reserve.

“Sable encounters are fairly frequent at Summerplace. The Sable aren’t too skittish and mountain bikers regularly ride near them. Sometimes the Sable herd is on one of the trails and when the riders approach, they move off on either side, but they don’t scatter in a panic like many other antelope here, they move away a bit and remain fairly close by,” added Baber.

To secure a chance of a Sable encounter at Summerplace, check out our accommodation options here.

Photo: Josh Baber
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