Meet Nairobi (m), born Feb. 21st, 2006
Order: Artiodactyla (even-toed)
Species: Hippotragus niger
Roaming the Masai Mara preserve at Out of Africa Wildlife Park, Nairobi has become the noble and wise patriarch of his sable family. Today Nairobi personifies strength as the protector of the herd. However, as a foal his future was in jeopardy when he was unable to nurse due to a very unusual cold spell. Founders Dean and Prayeri Harrison brought Nairobi into their house for 7 nights, returning him to the herd during warmer daylight to remain socialized. With lots of TLC, including 8 months of bottle feeding, he has since settled into his rightful place of sentinel father of the herd. He has two wives, Tanzani and Swazi. To this day Nairobi still comes when called. While most people know Nairobi as the capital and largest city of Kenya, Nairobi’s name comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to “cold water,” the Maasai name of the Nairobi River, which lent its name to the city.
The sable antelope is found in the southern savanna of Africa from Southeastern Kenya, Eastern Tanzania, and Mozambique to Angola and Southern Zaire, mainly in the Miombo Woodland zone. They prefer woodlands and grasslands and avoid extensive open lands.
Sable antelope can weigh from 330 to 600 pounds. This large species ranges from 46 to 56 inches tall at the shoulder and measures 75 to 100 inches long, not counting a tail of 15 to 30 inches. The males are slightly larger than females. Females are chestnut to dark brown, darkening as they mature, while males are very distinctively black. Both sexes have white underbellies, white cheeks, and white chins. They have shaggy manes on the back of their necks. Sable antelope have ringed horns which arch backward. In females these can reach nearly 3 feet, but in males they can reach almost 4 feet and are significantly more curved than those of females. Sexual maturity is achieved at 2-½ years of age for both males and females.
Peak mating activity occurs in June, and after a gestation period of 8 to 9 months, females typically give birth to a single calf at the end of the rainy season, at a time when food is abundant and the long grass provides sufficient cover. After birth the calf will remain concealed for up to 3 weeks, hiding from predators. The calf is weaned from its mother after 6 to 8 months. Males are subordinate to females until they get bigger. Sable antelope typically live 16 years in the wild and up to 19 years in captivity.
Primarily diurnal (day active), sable antelope are less active during the heat of the day. They form herds of 10 to 30 females and calves led by a single male, called a bull. Sable antelope males will fight among themselves; they drop to their knees and use their horns. In each herd, the juvenile males are exiled from the herd at about 3 years old. All of the female calves remain, however. When the herd gets too large, it divides into smaller groups of cows and their young. These groups will form new herds, once again with only one adult bull.
Sable antelope graze on a variety of short grasses abundant during the growing season and survive by browsing on herbs, bushes, and trees during the hard dry season. Sable antelope have a ruminant digestive system, meaning they chew, swallow, regurgitate, and chew again to aid in digestion.
- There are 4 subspecies ranging into Eastern Africa: Zambian, common or southern, eastern, and the giant or Angolan. The giant sable antelope are critically endangered.
- The species was originally known to the native African people as Palahal in the Swahili language. Today throughout Africa and the rest of the world, the species is better known by its English derived name, sable meaning “somber or dark,” referring to the beautiful dark coat.
- Sable antelope do not start life with a dark coat; it darkens as they age.
- When sable antelope are threatened by a predator, including lions, they will confront it, using their scimitar-shaped horns. Many big cats have died during such fights.
- The sable antelope is one of the most difficult antelope to work with.
The sable’s horns make it a highly prized hunting trophy and have contributed to the sharp decline of the animal. In addition to heavy hunting, numbers have been reduced severely as part of regional tsetse fly control programs. Furthermore, agricultural development is reducing the grassland habitat of sable antelope. Antelope are important to their habitats as grazers and browsers. They are also important as prey for carnivores.