The sable antelope is a selective grazer and the climate and naturally occurring grasses in the Gravelotte area represent ideal habitat for the species. Consequently, significant numbers of Matetsi sable managed to survive the pressures associated with decades of cattle farming. On incorporation in 1993, there were some 150 free roaming animals on the reserve. At that time, farmers had already started to take a keen interest in these rare animals and the wellbeing of the Selati sable became a key focus for us in the newly formed reserve.
Sable numbers did not increase significantly initially as anticipated. Predator pressure was assumed to be a major factor affecting survival and a decision was taken to experiment with smaller areas where this could be controlled. At the time very little was known about breeding sable in captivity as very few people had ever attempted to do so. At Selati we started off by capturing 30 females and a bull which we placed in a 500 ha fenced off section of the reserve.
We soon discovered that 500 ha was too big an area for us to monitor the animals effectively and the management practice has evolved to a small camp system of 20 to 30 ha per breeding herd.
Through a process of trial and error and shared learning we have, over the years, established a successful breeding programme. On average we have approximately 200 animals in the programme at any given time. We have had to remain competitive in breeding animals of high quality and superior horn length. Zambian bloodline was first introduced in the 1990s and we have continued to strengthen the gene pool with the periodic purchase of high quality Zambian bulls.