Slender-horned gazelle (Gazella leptoceros)

Also known as: Rhim gazelle, sand gazelle
  
French: Gazelle À Cornes Fines, Gazelle À Cornes Fines Des Dunes, Gazelle Leptocère
Spanish: Gacela De Astas Delgadas
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusGazella (1)
SizeHead-body length: 100 – 110 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 66 cm (3)
Weight14 – 30 kg (3)

The slender-horned gazelle is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4). It is also listed as Endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and therefore protected under the United States Endangered Species Act (5). It is listed on Appendix I of CITES (6).

The palest of all gazelle species, the slender-horned gazelle has a creamy-buff upper body, pale brown flank stripe and pure white underside (2) (7). The dark brown tail contrasts with a pure white rump (7). Darker bands run from the eyes to the nose, and a rufous stripe runs between the eyes to the nose. The slender-horned gazelle has large and slender ears behind the upright, slightly S-shaped horns. In males the horns are long and thin, reaching 30 to 41 centimetres and clearly ridged. Females’ horns, by comparison, reach just 20 to 35 centimetres and are slimmer and smoother. The hooves are broadened to ease travel across sand (2).

Once the most common gazelle in the Sahara Desert, the slender-horned gazelle suffered serious decline in the 1970s, leaving its populations highly fragmented (3). It is found in low numbers across Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Niger, Sudan and Tunisia (1), but its presence in the more southern Saharan countries in this list has been unverified for many years (7).

Inhabits sandy and stony deserts with acacia groves and sandy depressions with sparse vegetation (3). Most known populations are associated with the major Saharan sand seas of the western desert (Egypt to Libya), the Erg Oriental and Erg Occidental (Tunisia and Algeria) (7).

A nomadic species, the slender-horned gazelle wanders widely in search of food, grazing on grass, and browsing on succulents, herbs and shrubs (7) (8). Although it gains enough moisture from its food to survive, it will drink water when it is available. It feeds mainly during the night and early morning, retiring to rest in the shade through the hottest hours of the day. The slender-horned gazelle is specially adapted for its desert lifestyle, with the nose enlarged to allow the blood to cool in a network of blood vessels (3).

Like other desert gazelles and antelopes, social organisation is likely to be flexible and adaptable to variation in conditions. But in general they are observed to form groups of three to ten individuals, made up of one dominant male, several females and their young (3) (7). If conditions are good the slender-horned gazelle may become territorial during the mating season, typically from August to September (3) (7). The male attempts to herd more females into his territory to gain extra mating opportunities, but not all females will co-operate all of the time and younger satellite males may try to intervene in the confusion (7). After a gestation period of 156 to 169 days, females give birth to one, or sometimes two calves during January and February (3). The calves are weaned at three months, but do not mature until six to nine months in females and 18 months in males (3). Young males usually form bachelor herds until they can successfully compete for females. Adult males occasionally battle brutally to assert their dominance. Slender-horned gazelles were formerly preyed upon by cheetahs throughout their range, and may have encountered Cape hunting dogs, lions, leopards and spotted hyenas in some of the more southerly parts of the distribution (2) (7).

As an occupant of particularly poor countries, several of which have much civil unrest, the slender-horned gazelle has suffered through habitat loss and warfare. It is hunted for meat and its horns are sold as ornaments (3). Unmanaged recreational hunting is a major threat throughout its range and the rapid expansion of disturbance and intrusion caused by desert tourism based on 4x4 and other forms of motorised transport also affects some of the remaining populations in North Africa (7).

A small number of slender-horned gazelle are in captivity around the world. All are part of an international captive breeding programme but are derived from a very small initial founder group of original wild-caught Tunisian stock (7) (8). There are also very small captive groups held by national conservation institutions in Algeria and Tunisia. In the wild formation of the Djebil and Senghar National Parks in Tunisia, and the Siwa protected area in western Egypt (all during the 1990s) are important initiatives in the conservation of this species (7).

For further information on the slender-horned gazelle see:

Authenticated (24/05/2006) by Dr. Tim Wacher, Wildlife Biologist, Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
http://www.zsl.org

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Ultimate Ungulate (March, 2005)
    http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Gazella_leptoceros.html
  3. Animal Info (March, 2005)
    http://www.animalinfo.org/species/artiperi/gazelept.htm
  4. CMS (March, 2005)
    http://www.cms.int
  5. US FWS (March, 2005)
    http://www.fws.gov/
  6. CITES (March, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  7. Wacher, T. (2006) Pers. comm.
  8. Sahara Conservation Fund (June, 2008)
    http://www.saharaconservation.org/web/shg.php