Goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa)
|Also known as:||Arabian sand gazelle, Persian gazelle, Rheem gazelle, Sand gazelle, Saudi goitered gazelle|
|French:||Gazella À Goître|
|Spanish:||Gacela De Bocio|
|Size||Head-and-body length: 90 - 126 cm|
Shoulder height: 56 - 80 cm
Tail length: 10 - 23 cm
Male weight: 22 – 40 kg
Female weight: 18 - 33 kg (2) (3) (4) (5)
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed under Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (6). One subspecies is listed on the IUCN Red List: the Arabian sand gazelle (G. s. marica) is classified as Vulnerable (VU) (1). Several other subspecies have been listed based on morphological characteristics, but most have not been verified by genetic analysis, and are not listed individually on the IUCN Red List (1). Nevertheless, the following subspecies are all considered Vulnerable: Hillier’s goitered gazelles or Mongolian gazelles (G. s. hillieriana), Yarkand or Xingjian goitered gazelles (G. s. yarkandensis) and the Persian gazelles (G. s. subgutturosa) (7) (8).
This gazelle receives its common name due to the goitre-like swelling on the throat, which is an enlarged cartilaginous cylinder that is larger and more distinctive in males, especially during the breeding season, and allows them to emit loud bellows in courtship (2). Unlike most gazelles, females of this species are mostly, although not always, hornless (2) (9), while males boast long, elegantly curved, lyre-like, black horns that diverge outwards and turn back in at the tip (9). Interestingly, horn development in females increases from Mongolia and China, where they are almost completely hornless, to the Arabian Peninsula, where they have well-developed horns. Goitered gazelles vary in colouration between populations, from nearly white to brown with different tones of grey, red or yellow. Generally, the very light brown colouration of the back darkens towards the flanks, where it meets the white underparts in a crisp line, and the black colouration of the first two thirds of the tail contrasts starkly against the white of the buttocks (2). In Central and Middle Asia young have distinct facial stripes and spots on a coloured background, which tend to white and fade with age, but in Saudi Arabia even young have a white face without markings. Eyes are large and black, and the ears are long. Legs and neck are relatively long and the tail is quite short. Males are larger and heavier than females (3) (4) (10).
The goitered gazelle once ranged widely from the south of the Arabian Peninsula across Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Transcaucasia, former Soviet Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan), and western China to southern Mongolia. However, this range has contracted rather drastically since the beginning of the 20th Century, and the species is now locally extinct in many regions, including Georgia, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Yemen, and near extinct in Jordan (1).
Subspecies: Hillier’s goitered gazelles or Mongolian gazelles (G. s. hillieriana) live in the Mongolian Gobi, Yarkand or Xingjian goitered gazelles (G. s. yarkandensis) inhabit the Western Xingjian of China, Persian gazelles (G. s. subgutturosa) inhabit the vast areas of Middle Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan), Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Arabian Sand gazelles (G. s. marica) live in the Arabian Peninsula (7) (8).
A wide variety of desert and semi-arid habitats are occupied (11). They occur in flat and rolling areas, but prefer foothills with broken grounds, and mountain valley and plateaus, avoiding rocky cliffs, thick woody vegetation, and lands used for agriculture or intensive livestock grazing and areas devoid of gullies and ravines (11) (12). The northern distribution is limited by snow depth in winter, because these gazelles cannot reach food where snow cover reaches depths of 10 to 15 centimetres (13). Here, aggregations of several thousand may form at lower altitudes in winter to avoid the snow, but disperse to higher altitudes in summer (9). Goitered gazelles can live from sea level up to around 3,000 metres in China, and can even climb to elevations of 3,500 metres during the warmer months in Kazakhstan (4) (11) (12) (14) (15).
In summer, the goitered gazelle lives in small family groups of no more than 10 individuals, whilst in winter, large herds of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands (in Asia) of animals congregate together (2) (9). This herding behaviour coincides with the breeding season from September to January, during which solitary adult males become territorial and use urine and dung to mark and indicate ownership of their territory within this herd (2) (16). Males also use their expanded throats at this time to emit hoarse bellows, and glandular secretions are smeared on surrounding objects (2) (16). Meanwhile, sub-adult males form bachelor groups of up to five individuals, without individual territories. By contrast, females and young gather in herds of 10 to 30 gazelles during that time. Mating is polygamous, with males chasing females only inside their territory. Territorial males chase females to keep them in their territory and banish any other males, including yearlings. While most males mate with 2 to 12 females, rarely more (to 30 females in some cases), some do not gain access to any females at all. After the rut, goitered gazelles gather in large, often mixed groups of up to 50 individuals, but by spring, males leave mixed groups, and males and females form groups independently. Pregnant females leave their (female) groups and become solitary as it gets close to the time of birth (4) (17). Gestation lasts 148 to 159 days, with calving occurring from March to July, although most females give birth during several days in May (April in Saudi Arabia, and June in Mongolia). Young and old females have a single newborn, but most adult females (75 percent) have twins, which is rare for other gazelle species. After birth a newborn hides alone while its mother grazes or lies within 50 to 500 metres from him. Females lead their infants to new hiding places after each nursing, and twins are bedded 50 to 1000 metres apart during the first four to six days. Young start following their mother regularly at the age of 2 to 2.5 months (4), and are weaned after four to five months (2). Some young females have their first oestrus at the age of six months, although most do not begin to breed until 18 months. Males may sire offspring at the age of 10 to 11 months, but usually begin to breed only at 2.5 to 3 years of age. (11). Males are reproductive until 10 to 11 years old, though usually they do not live more than five to six years in the wild, and females can bear until the age of 13 to 14 years old (18), typically living 8 to 12 years in the wild (5).
During the summer months, goitered gazelles graze most active in the early morning and late afternoon, feeding on grasses, leaves and shoots (2), but in areas with heavily poaching they become to be partly nocturnal (19) (12). Every gazelle eats 6 kilograms of forage a day, about 30 percent of its body weight, and daily water intake is 2 to 4 litres (11). In the midday heat, these animals shelter in the shade and keep cool by excavating shallow pits to lie in, where the earth is cooler. This midday break is significantly reduced or even eliminated during the cooler winter months (2) (4) (11).
Throughout their range, goitered gazelles are the victims of illegal hunting and habitat loss, and although still widely spread, their numbers are declining and their distribution is uneven. While substantial populations are thought to remain in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, declines are widely reported elsewhere, and some populations, such as those in Turkmenistan, have almost disappeared completely. Most populations are now small and isolated from one another, leaving them vulnerable to further reduction. This species has been hunted for its meat and, to a lesser extent, for trophies, while the Arabian subspecies has also suffered from occasional live-capture for private collections. Habitat has been lost and severely degraded due to economic development, conversion to agricultural land, and overgrazing by increasing numbers of domestic livestock (1) (4). The Arabian subspecies in particular suffers from competition for food with domestic sheep and goats (16). In Central Asia, the goitered gazelle is also vulnerable to the effects of severe winter weather (1). At present, the total number of this species in the wild is no more than 120,000 to 140,000 individuals, whilst around 529 individuals exist in captivity (4) (7).
The goitered gazelle is legally protected across all countries it inhabits, except Iran, where traditionally these gazelles are used for legal trophy hunting. Even elsewhere where legal protection exists, the law is not necessarily enforced effectively. Consequently, the species mostly remains only in protected areas such as nature reserves, and may increasingly grow to rely on national parks and reserves for safe refuge (1). Most countries have special areas for protection of goitered gazelle populations, but the level of real protection inside these areas depends considerably on economic level and political stability in one or other country (4) (14) (20). Reintroduction programmes are being conducted in Saudi Arabia to create new wild populations of these gazelles (19) and could provide a model for future reintroductions elsewhere.
For more information on the goitered gazelle see:
The Ultimate Ungulate Page:
- East, R. (1992) Conservation status of Antelopes in Asia and the Middle East, part 1. Species, 19: 23-25.
- Groves, S.P. (1969) On the smaller gazelles of the genus Gazella de Blainville, 1816. Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde, 34: 66-74.
- Habibi, K. (1992) Arabian gazelles. National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development. Publication No 4, Riyadh, 131 pp.
Harrison, D.L. and Bates, P.J.J. (1991) The Mammals of Arabia.
Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, England.
- Heptner, V.G., Nasimovich, A.A. and Bannikov, A.D. (1988) Mammals of the Soviet Union. Artiodactyla and Perrisodactyla. Smithsonian Institution Libraries, 1: 1-1147.
- Kingswood, S.C. and Blank, D.A. (1996) Gazella subgutturosa in: Mammalian Species, No 518, p. 1-10.
For more information on the conservation of Arabian wildlife, including the Arabian sand gazelle see:
The Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife Sharjah:
Written and authenticated (20/12/2006) by Dr. David Blank, Field Zoologist and International expert for the Wetland Biodiversity Conservation Project in China (United Nations Development Programme).
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Goitre: goitre (or goiter) is a condition in which the thyroid gland expands, usually due to a lack of iodine in the diet. While these gazelles do not actually have goitre, the expanded throats of males in the breeding season resemble the condition.
- Polygamous: mating with more than one partner in the same season.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- Territorial: an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
- Territory: an area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (August, 2009)
The Ultimate Ungulate Page (May, 2006)
- Groves, C.P. and Harrison, D.L. (1967) The taxonomy of the gazelles (genus Gazella) of Arabia. Journal of Zoology, 152: 381 - 387.
- Kingswood, S.C. and Blank, D.A. (1996) Gazella subgutturosa. Mammalian Species, 518: 1 - 10.
- Zhevnerov, V.V. and Bekenov, A.B. (1983) Mammals of Kazakhstan. Nauka of Kazakh SSR, Alma-Ata, 3(3): 1 - 246.
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (December, 2005)
- East, R. (1992) Conservation status of Antelopes in Asia and the Middle East, part 1. Species, 19: 23 - 25.
- Groombridge, B. (1993) 1994 IUCN red list of threatened animals. International Union for Conservation of Nature and National Resources, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K..
- Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Groves, S.P. (1969) On the smaller gazelles of the genus Gazella de Blainville, 1816. Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde, 34: 66 - 74.
- Heptner, V.G., Nasimovich, A.A. and Bannikov, A.D. (1988) Mammals of the Soviet Union. Artiodactyla and Perrisodactyla. Smithsonian Institution Libraries, 1: 1 - 1147.
- Roberts, T.J. (1977) The Mammals of Pakistan. Ernest Benn, London.
- Sludsky, A.A. (1963) The mass death of wild ungulates in steppes and deserts of Europe and Asia. Proceedings of the Institute of Zoology, Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR, 20: 5 - 88.
- Cai, G., Liu, Y. and O’Gara, B.W. (1990) Observation of large mammals in the Qaidam Basin and its peripheral mountainous areas in the People’s Republic of China. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 68: 2021 - 2024.
- Lay, D.M. (1967) A study of the mammals of Iran resulting from the Street Expedition of 1962-3. Fieldiana: Zoology, 54: 1 - 283.
Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife Sharjah (May, 2006)
- Habibi, K., Thouless, C.R. and Lindsay, N. (1993) Comparative behavior of sand and mountain gazelles. Journal of Zoology, 229: 41 - 53.
- Carter, S. (1991) Goitered gazelle North American regional studbook. First edition. Sedgwick County Zoo and Botanical Garden, Wichita, Kansas.
- Launay, F. and Launay, C. (1992) Daily activity and social organization of the Goitered gazelles (Gazella subgutturosa marica). Ongulates/Ungulates, 91: 373 - 377.
- Habibi, K. (1977) The mammals of Afghanistan: their distribution and status. Unpublished report to the UNDP/FAO and Ministry of Agriculture, Kabul.