Status: Critically endangered
Known as: Dama Gazelle, Mhorr gazelle, addra gazelle
Estimated numbers left in wild: Perhaps 2,000
The dama gazelle is the world’s largest gazelle, and has a very slender build. This gazelle has a white head, sides, and legs, with a bright white crescent on its russet throat. The russet colouration extends from the neck over the shoulder and back and down the top of the rear legs. A streak of russet is also found on the bottom front of the forelegs. Black horns that sweep backwards before curving forward again at the tip complete the streamlined appearance of the dama gazelle. Both sexes have horns, but those of the female are shorter than the male’s. This gazelle ranges between 90 centimetres and 120 centimetres at the shoulder. Larger gazelles will weigh about 75 kilograms, with smaller adults only 35 kilograms.
Pronking: These gazelles normally congregate in small groups of up to 20, with larger groups forming during the seasonal migration. Some of the animals will be solitary. The breeding season will cause the normally quiet males to become territorial as they try to attract as many females as possible to their ‘domain’. Usually pronking, executing stiff-legged jumps, is enough of a threat display by the males during mating season
Breeding: Young gazelles are born after a gestation period of about 6 ½ months, and only days after birth it is able to keep up with its mother. A week is sufficient time for the juvenile to be able to run nearly as fast as the adults.
Habitat: The dama gazelle inhabits grasslands, savannah, desert, and other semi-arid regions in the north of Africa. It eats acacias, shrubs, grass, and dates, and is able to stand on its hind legs to reach food up to 2 meters off the ground. The dama gazelle has adapted to its dry environment by being able to obtain sufficient water from its food when free water is not available. The long legs and light body structure aid this gazelle in dealing with the heat of the desert.
Location: The range of the dama gazelle has been greatly restricted, and they are now only found in pockets in Niger, Mali, and Chad in sub-Saharan Africa. These gazelles previously ranged from the west coast of northern Africa to the Nile.
Threats: As is too often the case, the greatest threat to the dama gazelle comes from man. Poaching and habitat destruction has reduced the numbers of this gazelle by 80%. The drought this region has been suffering from has made life even more difficult for the animal, and the extension of the desert has brought it into closer contact with humans as it moves to the south in search of forage. It is also preyed upon by such predators as cape hunting dogs, cheetahs, lions, hyenas, and leopards. The lack of genetic diversity could be another problem to the continued existence of the dama gazelle.
Conservation efforts: At this point, it appears that captive breeding programs are the best chance for the dama gazelle to survive as a species. Breeding is conducted both in the United States and in European countries. Fenced off areas in Senegal, Morocco, and Tunisia have given the dama gazelles some protection, but any wildlife reserves in this region are often poorly policed, increasing the chances for poaching.
Do you know of or are you a part of an organisation that work to conserve the Dama Gazelle, then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.