Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas)

dorcas gazelle

You can find us at the Aridlands house and close to the meerkats near Cafe Graze

Fast facts

Status Vulnerable

Size Head and body: 90-110 cm. Tail length: 15-20 cm

Weight 15-18kg

Gestation 6 months

Young 1 (twins are rare)

Life span Up to 9 years in the wild, around 23 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Dorcas gazelles feed on a diet of plants (herbivores), they mostly eat grass and leaves and are known to eat flowers, the pods of different species of Acacia trees and fruits from various bushes in their range.

These animals have been seen standing on their back legs to reach browse on trees, and even digging out bulbs of plants from the ground after it has been raining.

Where do I live?

Dorcas gazelles are found in countries within North Africa and also in the Middle East.

They will live in habitats such as steppe grassland, savannahs, semi-desert environments and ‘wadi’ (wah-dee) which are areas where channels of water can collect after rainfall, but is otherwise dry.

Breeding

Dorcas gazelles can be found together in different numbers depending on their environment and how much food is available. If the conditions are harsh, then they can be found in pairs; but if there is a good source of food then they can be found in greater numbers from family groups of a male with females and young, to groups of over 100 individuals.

These antelope are mature and able to breed from around 2 years old. Breeding season for dorcas gazelles in the wild can be at different times, depending on where they are found; for example births in Morocco of dorcas gazelle can occur between late October and November, in Dijbouti (in Africa) births can be in the cold season (November to January) and wet season (February to May).

A newborn dorcas gazelle calf is born with fur and will open its eyes; they can stand within an hour of being born, walk and feed from its mother within hours of being born!

The mother will leave the calf in a safe spot and will graze nearby for around 3 weeks, coming back to feed her young regularly. The mother will produce milk for her calf for around 6 months after birth, but the calf does not need to feed exclusively on their mother’s milk for this long, as young dorcas gazelles can start to forage for solid food at around 17 days old.

Predators

In the wild dorcas gazelle are hunted by golden jackals and young gazelle can be hunted by other predators such as red foxes, Rüppell’s foxes and large eagles. In some areas domestic dogs are also a threat to theses small gazelles.

To stay safe dorcas gazelles will use their keen eyesight to look out for predators. If a threat is spotted then they will warn the rest of the group with alarm calls, which sound like a short bark. They will also tail-twitch when a threat is spotted and will run from danger. Dorcas gazelles are swift runners, and when they run they will leap in to the air with their head held up, this is called ‘stotting’.

Conservation

Dorcas gazelles face threats from overhunting, loss of habitat and competition for sources of food and water with livestock animals.

These animals can be found in national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas throughout its range, they can also be found outside of these protected areas. Dorcas gazelles can be found in animal collections worldwide and are part of captive breeding programmes in many zoos.

Did you know?

This is one of the smallest species of gazelle.

The dorcas gazelle can potentially go their entire lives without drinking, as they gain the moisture they need from the plants they eat. However if they are near a good source of water then they will drink.

Dorcas gazelles are mostly moving around and looking for food (foraging) at dawn, dusk and during the night to avoid being active in the heat of the day.

In areas where dorcas gazelles have faced problems with hunters, they will tend to be more active at night, as this has been known to minimise the risk of hunting.

The horns of the males and females are slightly different. The males have longer curved horns (lyrate) that can be up to 40cm long, whereas the horns of the females are smaller and straighter.

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Marwell zoo is lovely zoo and I would definitely recommend it. The animals are well looked after. It's a great zoo and it's suitable for all ages! My favourite animals there are probably the tigers and the mongooses. The staff were really nice and told me everything I needed to know!…Lucy, 21st January 2016