Dorcas Gazelle, Gazella dorcas

Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas) is also commonly called the Ariel gazelle. It can be found in many places in Africa and Arabia, preferring wadis, grassland, steppe, semi-desert, and mountain desert climates. There are six recognized subspecies of the Dorcas gazelle, and the Saudi gazelle that is now extinct is thought to have been another subspecies.

Dorcas gazelles have an average height reaching between 1.8-2.1 feet and they can reach an average weight of up to forty-four pounds. They are similar to the mountain gazelle in appearance, but their size is slightly smaller. The ears are longer, and the horns are more curved as well. Coloring varies from region to region, ranging from a pale brown color in Saharan populations to a darker red in populations located around the Red Sea and Israel.

Dorca gazelles are adapted to living in harsh desert climates, and as a result are able to go their entire lives without drinking any water, although they will consume water when available. They will eat fruit and vegetation, and they gain their hydration from those plant materials.  They will feed on leaves, fruits, grasses, and can even be seen grazing on their hind legs from trees. After a rain, they may dig for bulbs in the damp earth.

Dorcas gazelle are able to run at speeds of up to forty-three mph, and when endangered they will leap many times with their head held high to alert other gazelle that they have seen a predator. This is known as stotting. In good conditions, they will live in familial groups comprised of one lead male, a few females, and their young, while in poor conditions the will only live in pairs. When surrounded, Dorcas gazelle can be very dangerous and deaths have been reported.

Breeding season occurs mainly from September to November, and during this time, males will become increasingly territorial, using dung middens to mark their territory. After a pregnancy of up to six months, one fawn is born, although twins have been found in Algeria. The fawn is born with fur and open eyes, and will try to stand within the first hour of its life. It will lie hidden in vegetation while the mother grazes nearby for two weeks, after which the fawn is able to nurse while standing and eat grass. After three months, the fawn is weaned and is able to eat only solid foods.

There are only about 35,000 through 40,000 Dorcas gazelle left in the wild. In Israel, there are only around 1000 to 1500 gazelle left, but in Negev, Arava, Iraq, and the Sudan there are many larger populations. Natural predation threatens these gazelle, with predators including cheetahs, Arabian wolves, lions, leopards, caracals, and servals. However, due to human hunting of the larger cats, there are not many left to hunt the gazelle. Humans are the largest threat to the Dorcas gazelle, causing habitat destruction and reduction by converting their natural habitats to farmland. This causes the gazelle to have to compete with domesticated sheep and goats for food. The IUCN has given the Dorcas gazelle a conservation status of “Vulnerable”.

Image Caption: Dorcas Gazelle at Marwell Wildlife. Credit: Khendon/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)