First release of Roan Antelope into wild conditions in Swaziland

The long term objective of the Back to Africa Swaziland roan antelope project is to establish a free ranging herd of roan antelope in wild (in situ) conditions in the Kingdom of Swaziland. This will enhance the mammalian biodiversity of the region.

Phase one of our project is to breed zoo roan under semi intensive conditions until a viable population is achieved. This is occurring successfully.  

Phase two is then to release animals into the wild with no management.

In November 2013 two radio collared roan antelope from our project were released into the 1800ha Red Tiger Ranch area of the Mkhaya reserve in the Kingdom of Swaziland. This will be followed by further animals in the near future. These animals will receive no management such as nutritional supplementation, veterinary care or ectoparasite control. Tick worry and tick born disease are the greatest threats to them. The radio collars were fitted to enable us to monitor their progress in the wild.

Roan are very sensitive to ticks and the tick born disease theileriosis. The zoo animals imported originated from Uganda and possibly became immunologically naïve as a result of generations being born in tick free zoo conditions. The calves born in Swaziland were exposed to ticks and survived to adulthood. However exposure was gradual with tick control being exercised. This enhanced their survival. Limited exposure to ticks resulted in immunity being developed.

Roan antelope are ranched extensively in southern Africa. They survive well with intensive management. However wild populations are not doing well and there are a variety of reasons for this. The Kruger Park population has dwindled to an almost unviable number. Another indigenous population exists in the Percy Fyfe reserve. Wild populations seem to  have a natural resistance to theileria. Do they carry genes that ensure their survival in South African conditions? This is an important question with relevance to the sub species issue. This is hotly debated with lumpers vs splitters at odds with one another.

We recognize these genetic attributes and for this reason bulls from the Percy Fyfe reserve in South Africa were sourced and are now being used in our project. It is hoped they will infuse “survival genes” into our animals. Our first crop of calves are doing very well with limited tick control and we believe these animals have a greater chance of surviving in really wild conditions.

 

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