Speke’s gazelle (Gazella spekei)

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Speke's gazelle
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Speke’s gazelle fact file

Speke’s gazelle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusGazella (1)

A small, delicate-looking gazelle with a remarkable, inflatable nasal sac (2), Speke’s gazelle is now, sadly, threatened with extinction (1). The upperparts of this diminutive species are coloured brownish-fawn and separated from the white underparts by a dark stripe running along the flanks (3). The head is also brownish-fawn, with facial patterning consisting of bold dark and white markings (3). The horns of this species are broadly ringed (more prominently in the males), curving back from the head in a loose S-shape (2) (3). As with other species of gazelle, the horns of Speke’s gazelle are longer in the male than the female, with the male’s horns averaging at 29 centimetres (3).

It is the unusual, nasal sack which really makes this species stand out. Normally, this sac takes the form of loose folds of skin behind the nostrils, but when alarmed or excited it can be inflated (3). The inflated sac forms a hollow chamber amplifying the loud sneeze-snorts that this animal makes as an alarm call (4) and, perhaps, as a means of announcing status (2).

Size
Head-body length: 95 – 105 cm (2)
Tail length: 15 – 20 cm (2)
Weight
15 – 25 kg (2)
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Speke’s gazelle biology

Adapted to life in hot, dry regions, Speke’s gazelle feeds in the morning and evening, resting during the hotter parts of the day (4). Around May, the appearance of large numbers of biting tabanid flies force the Speke’s gazelle to move towards the coastal dunes, where the flies are dispersed by coastal winds (1).

Herds are relatively small, consisting of five to ten individuals (3), though occasionally larger groups will form in response to more abundant grazing (2). Herds are controlled by a territorial male (3), and territories are marked by urination, defecation and scent produced by preorbital glands (2) (6).

Seasonal breeders, Speke’s gazelles mate during December and January, with the female delivering a single calf around May or June, after a gestation period of five and a half months (6).

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Speke’s gazelle range

Endemic to the Horn of Africa (1), Speke’s gazelle was once widespread and abundant throughout north-central and north-eastern Somalia (5). Today, Speke’s gazelle is believed to be confined to the 20 to 40 kilometre wide grassland strip running along the coastal plains of Somalia. Its northern limits are defined by the steep hills of the Gulis Range, while its southern limits have been created by uncontrolled hunting. In the past, Speke’s gazelle was also occasionally encountered in north-eastern Ethiopia, though its continued presence there, in the face of severe hunting pressure, seems unlikely (1).

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Speke’s gazelle habitat

Speke’s gazelle inhabits semi-arid, grassland and stony, semi-desert regions with sparse vegetation that includes shrubs, succulents and desert grasses (1) (2).

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Speke’s gazelle status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Speke’s gazelle threats

Uncontrolled hunting for its meat, competition with domestic livestock for grazing, degradation of its habitat and drought are all serious, ongoing problems for the survival of Speke’s gazelle (1) (5). Unfortunately, Somalia’s unstable political climate over the last 20 years has meant that there has been no centralised government to implement any protective measures for this species (1). More recently an illegal wildlife trade, which includes antelopes, has developed, yet another threat to a species whose survival is already at risk (1).

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Speke’s gazelle conservation

It was predicted in 1998 that, in the absence of protective measures, Speke’s gazelle would decline in conservation status from Vulnerable to Endangered (5). The fact that this change in conservation status has occurred, highlights the uncertain future of this species in the wild. The total population of Speke’s gazelle declined by 50 percent in the period 1988 to 2006, and there are still no schemes in place to protect this animal or its habitat within its current range (1). There are, however, a number of populations being successfully bred in captivity, which will at least serve to protect this unique animal from total extinction and offer a hope for the reintroduction of populations to the wild (1) (4).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on captive breeding and conservation see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Preorbital glands
An organ that produces a secretion, situated in front of the eye socket.
Tabanid
Any fly belonging to the family Tabanidae. Includes horseflies and gadflies.
Territorial
An animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press Ltd, London.
  3. Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (1997) Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of South Africa. Struik Publishers, London.
  4. Solomon, D. (1997) At the zoo: the snorting gazelle. Zoogoer, 26(1): 1 - . Available at:
    http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Publications/ZooGoer/1997/1/thesnortinggazelle.cfm
  5. East, R. (1999) African Antelope Database 1998. IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group, Gland.
  6. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (September, 2008)
    http://www.jacksonvillezoo.org/animals/biofacts/SpekesGazelle.asp
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Image credit

Speke's gazelle  
Speke's gazelle

© Wardene Weisser / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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