Goa, Procapra picticaudata
The Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata), also known as the goa, is native to the Tibetan plateau. Its range is nearly restricted to the provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Tibet. Small populations do occur outside of this range in India, in the Sikkim and Ladakh regions. It prefers a habitat within high steppes and alpine meadows, at elevations between 9,800 and 18,860 feet. Within its range, it can be found in small herds that are spread apart.
The Tibetan gazelle can reach an average height between twenty-one and twenty-six inches at the shoulder, with a weight of twenty-nine to thirty-five pounds. Males grow ridged horns that can reach an average length of ten to thirteen inches. Its summer coat is typically greyish brown in color, with more grey appearing during the winter. The rump has a white, heart shaped patch of fur and a short, black tipped tail. Although this gazelle has no undercoat, its fur does become thicker during the winter.
The Tibetan gazelle is typically found in small groups of up to ten, but will occasionally gather in larger herds. Its vocalizations include short calls that alert the herd to predators, and if a predator is spotted, it will use its long legs to quickly escape from any danger. The diet of this gazelle consists of legumes and forbs, and smaller amounts of sedges and grasses. Its main predator is the wolf. Males and females will spend most of the year alone, but will gather in September. Mating season occurs in December, when males will scent mark territories and occasionally squabble with other males, using their horns to defeat a foe. After a pregnancy period of six months, one young is born between the months of July and August. The young will stay hidden for up to two weeks, after which it will return to the herd with it mother about two weeks after birth. It is thought that sexual maturity is reached at eighteen months of age. The average life span of this gazelle is five years.
The Tibetan gazelle is not severely vulnerable to humans, although habitat loss due to human encroachment is a possible threat. Hunting of this species does not occur often, due to its small size. In China, it is listed as a Class II protected species. There has been a documented decline in this species, and it is thought that it could be in danger of extinction in some areas of its range. In Ladakh, there is only one population that numbers less than one hundred individuals, and these are threatened by a lack in genetic diversity as well as habitat deterioration. The Tibetan gazelle appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Near Threatened.”
Image Caption: A Tibetan Gazelle, or Goa. Credit: Ernst Schäfer/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)