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The historic translocation of Africa’s rarest antelope

Conservation-led travel company andBeyond recently celebrated the success of its breeding programme for Africa’s rarest antelope species by translocating four Ader’s duiker to a brand new breeding site on the island of Zanzibar. With only between 300 and 600 Ader’s duiker remaining in the wild, the breeding programme has been up and running since 2005, when five of the little antelope were introduced onto &Beyond Mnemba Island, a private island paradise situated off the coast of Zanzibar.

With no natural predators and a plentiful supply of food, the duikers have bred extremely well, with the estimated population on Mnemba growing to 35. As a result and at the request of the Minister of Natural Resources and Fisheries in Zanzibar, four animals were recently translocated from the island to form a new breeding population on Unguja Island.

A team of experts was assembled on Mnemba Island for the translocation in early June, consisting of representatives from Zanzibar’s Department of Natural Resources, as well as Dr Dave Cooper, Head Veterinarian for the Provincial Conservations Department in South Africa, as well as Les Carlisle, andBeyond Group Conservation Manager. The translocation techniques used were influenced by prior research carried out by University of South Africa researcher Lorraine Braby, who had collared a number of the little animals to collect information on their diet and behaviour as part of efforts to improve the outcomes of the breeding programme. Darting the duiker had proved to be most stress-free method of capture and was therefore chosen for the translocation.

The required darting equipment and drugs were provided by andBeyond and, with the placement of the tranquiliser dart on the little animals absolutely critical, the expert skills of Dr Dave Cooper were called upon to dart four duikers. With the little animals running off into the dense forest covering Mnemba on darting, they were quickly tracked, blindfolded and carried back to the loading area. The darts were then removed, the wounds treated and a sedative administered to calm the duiker before the antidote to the immobilisation drug was administered.

Once all four of the little animals were successfully crated, the crates were taken by boat from Mnemba to the main island of Zanzibar. The last leg of the duiker’s trip to their new home was by vehicle.

The historic translocation process, which marks the first time that Ader’s duiker have been moved from Mnemba, is aimed at creating a brand new population of the endangered antelope on Zanzibar, while also ensuring that the number of animals on Mnemba does not exceed the resources available on the island. It is estimated that 25 to 30 duiker remain on the island and, should the animals continue to breed at the same rate, andBeyond plans to translocate 10 to 12 of the little antelope every year.

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andBeyond is one of the world’s leading luxury experiential travel companies, designing personalised high-end tours in 15 countries in Africa, five in Asia and four in South America.