Dama gazelle (Nanger dama)

Also known as: Addra gazelle, ariel, nanger, ril
Synonyms: Gazella dama
French: Gazelle Dama
Spanish: Gacela Dama
GenusNanger (1)
SizeHead-body length: 140 - 165 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 90 - 120 cm (2)
Tail length: 25 - 35 cm (2)
Weight40 - 75 kg (2)

The dama gazelle is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (3) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (4).

The largest of all gazelle species, the dama gazelle has at least two subspecies, which vary greatly in colour. The eastern subspecies, known as the red-necked gazelle (Nanger dama ruficollis), is bright white with a reddish-brown neck. However, the degree of colouration increases from east to west, and the most westerly subspecies, the Mhorr gazelle (Nanger dama mhorr), is almost completely red, apart from the undersides and the rump. It has a small white patch on the throat, and a white face, with red cheek patches and thin black stripes running from the eyes to the corners of the mouth. All dama gazelles have thin legs and a long, slender neck, as well as long, S-shaped horns, which are larger and thicker in males (2).

Once a numerous and widespread animal, the dama gazelle was found from Morocco, Senegal and Mauritania eastward to the Sudan. It suffered a serious decline in recent years and is now found only in Chad, Mali and Niger (5). Recent surveys in these three countries found very few gazelles, making the dama one of the most threatened species in Africa (6) (7) (8) (9) (10). Captive-bred groups of the Mhorr gazelle have been reintroduced into fenced areas in Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia (11).

Although the dama gazelle normally inhabits grasslands and semi-desert, it is mainly found today in marginal areas on stony plains and plateaus, and mountain foothills (12) (14).

Dama gazelles form mixed herds of 10 to 20 animals which roam widely to find enough vegetation and water to survive. They migrate seasonally, forming larger groups of several hundred, in which they move north into the Sahara desert at the start of the rainy season and back south into the Sahel for the dry season. They feed on acacia, bush leaves and grasses, and may stand on their hind legs to reach higher foliage. Dama gazelles are preyed upon by cheetahs, Cape hunting dogs, lions, leopards, hyenas and jackals (2) (14).

Females reach sexual maturity at nine to twelve months and males between 18 and 24 months. Breeding takes place between March and June, and a single calf is born six and a half months later (2). Initially the newborn calf is hidden from the herd, but begins to follow its mother after a few days (12). The calf will be weaned at around six months old (2). Males are territorial during the breeding season, when they guard several females, and will mark their territory with faeces, urine, and secretions from the preorbital glands beneath the eyes (15).

In the recent past hunting of this species was common, until numbers fell dramatically (12). Now, additional threat comes from habitat loss due to desertification as well as overgrazing by livestock and the loss of tree cover following clearance by man (14) (12). The livestock not only cause drier land, but also drive the gazelle away. Civil unrest in several of the countries home to this once numerous gazelle has also contributed to its decline (12).

The range of the dama gazelle falls on some of the poorest countries in Africa, and consequently little action is being taken to conserve this species. It is managed in captivity and exists in a few reserves in its range, but they are not well guarded, and offer little more protection than any other area (15).

For further information on the dama gazelle see:

Authenticated (18/05/2006) by John Newby, Director of the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF).

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2013)