Gazelle

It is not uncommon to see gazelles alongside other grazing animals such as zebra, and they can sometimes form a strong bond with particular individuals.

Thomson's Gazelle

These attractive gazelles are found in the dry habitats of Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. They have brown coats with a dark line running from the foreleg to the rump. This distinctive feature is not seen in other gazelles and may serve as a visual signal to help members of herds stay close together while moving at high speeds.

These gazelles rank amongst the fastest on the African plains, able to run at speeds of up to 80 kph (50 mph). Even so, they can be outpaced by cheetahs, although only over short distances. Like several other antelopes, Thomson's gazelles have a behaviour called "stotting". When they spot predators stalking them, they make a series of curious jumps. This behaviour signals to the predators that they have been spotted and should not try to chase the obviously agile gazelles. Fawns are especially vulnerable to predation, and roughly half of them die before reaching maturity. It may be due to this precarious existence that female Thomson’s gazelles can give birth twice a year.

Distribution: Occurs in East Africa, in Ethiopia, Sudan, and particularly in the serengeti grassland areas of southern and central Kenya and northern Tanzania.

Weight: 13 - 30 kg (29 - 66 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 106 - 142 cm (42 - 56 in), including tail; up to 90 cm (35 in) tall.

Maturity: Females 8 - 14 months; males 11-12 months.

Gestation Period: 155 - 186 days; weaned 4 months later.

Breeding: 1.

Food: Herbivorous, feeding on grass, but will eat other vegetation.

Lifespan: 10 - 15 years in the wild; up to 20 in captivity.

Horns

The horns spiral along their length, with the tips pointing forwards. They are much longer in males, measuring up to 30 cm (12 in).

Ears

Ears are long and set well back on the head; they have black insides.

Colouration

Light brown, with distinctive black stripes on the sides, and white underparts.

Facial features

The eyes are encircled with white markings, forming a stripe down the nose.

COURTSHIP

Male Thomson’s gazelles begin establishing their territories from two years old. Herds of females will move through the male’s territory.

Dorcas Gazelle

Agile and fast, these gazelles are well-adapted to life in the desert. They can go their whole lives without drinking, obtaining adequate fluid from their food.

These gazelles often travel long distances in search of food in areas where there has been recent rainfall. The sexes frequently form separate herds, although males are territorial, especially during the mating period. They use their dung to mark out their range, and also rely on urine for scent-marking. When danger is detected, Dorcas gazelles utter an uncharacteristic ducklike quack through the nose, which inflates temporarily while the sound is being uttered.

Distribution: Present throughout northern parts of Africa, occurring in the Sahara region, down to the horn of Africa and ranging eastwards across the Arabian peninsula.

Weight: 15 - 20 kg (33 - 44 lb).

Length: 105 - 130 cm (41 - 51 in), including tail.

Maturity: Females 9 months; males 1.5 years.

Gestation Period: About 186 days; young then conceal themselves for up to 6 weeks.

Breeding: A single youngster, occasionally 2; weaned by 3 months.

Food: Herbivorous, eating grasses, leaves and desert succulents.

Lifespan: 12 years maximum.

Male horns

Horns of the male are more curved and larger than in the female, growing up to 38 cm (15 in).

Ears

Large ears help detect sound in the still desert environment.

Coat

Pale colour blends in with their sandy environment, providing camouflage. Their white underparts may reflect heat.

Female horns

Females have narrower, straighter horns, measuring 25 cm (10 in).

STAYING ALIVE

Living where there is little — if any — cover, Dorcas gazelles must rely on their agility and speed to escape predators.

Oribi Gazelle

These graceful gazelles are denizens of grassland areas throughout Africa. They can be recognized at a glance by the white crescent over each eye.

Oribi live in small groups all year round, either as individual pairs or a male with two or three females. Their size means that they are vulnerable to a wide range of predators, from genets to pythons. As a result, they rely on camouflage to protect themselves, freezing in position in the grass in the hope of being overlooked. When they run, they engage in an unusual behaviour called stotting, which entails jumping up into the air every few paces.

Distribution: Extensive distribution in suitable habitat right across Africa south of the Sahara, essentially absent only from Liberia, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Weight: 15 - 21 kg (33 - 46 Ib).

Length: 92 - 140 cm (36 - 55 in).

Maturity: Females 10 months; males 14 months.

Gestation Period: 200 - 215 days.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs after 3.5 months.

Food: Grazes on grass and browses on leaves and shoots.

Lifespan: Up to 14 years in captivity; shorter in the wild.

Eyelashes

Prominent eyelashes help prevent eye injuries when the gazelles are in tall grass.

Colouration

A clear division exists between the orange-brown upperparts, and the white on the underparts.

Glands

A distinctive large, rounded glandular patch is present below each ear; this produces scent for territorial marking.

Tail

The tail is short and bushy, with a colour scheme matching that of the body.

ESCAPING DANGER

Unexpectedly jumping off the ground confuses a predator such as this baboon, when it is trying to catch the gazelle.

Dama gazelle

The dama gazelle lives in the dry grasslands around the edge of the Sahara Desert. It is most common in the Sahel region, south of the desert in Mali, Chad and Niger, but it also extends to Mauritania and Sudan. This species is on the brink of extinction because it is a valuable source of meat in a region where food is scarce at the best of times. The gazelle’s range has also been reduced by the encroaching desert.

Dama gazelles live in small herds of about 15 individuals comprising a more or less equal mix of the sexes. The gazelles are active during the day. When the rains come and pastures spring up along the edge of the desert, the gazelles migrate north.

The dama gazelle is the largest gazelle of all. Even for a gazelle it has exceptionally long legs and a long neck. The S-shaped horns are short and thicker in the males. The red-coloured coat is darkest in western individuals.

Female dama gazelles gestate for more than six months, which is a long time, even for a large gazelle of this kind. The calf is born highly developed, and within a week it is able to run as fast as the adults.

Distribution: North-western Africa.

Habitat: Semi-desert.

Food: Grasses and leaves.

Size: 1.4 - 1.7 m (4.5 - 5.5 ft); 85 kg (187.5 lb).

Maturity: 1-2 years.

Breeding: Single calf born in September to November.

Life span: 10 years.

Status: Endangered.

Gallery of Gazelle